One of the big ahas in researching my book was how much technology is being embedded in products by companies we traditionally do not categorize as tech vendors – the book cited examples from BMW, Hospira, Nike, Moen and several others. These are traditional buyers of technology who are learning to become vendors – so a blend of buyer/vendor or “buyor”
At CES last week, the trend was even more visible (in a sea of tablets and Verizon iPhone rumors) - the list of exhibitors included companies from just about every non-tech vertical.
Ford chose to unveil its all-electric Focus at the CES show rather than at the Detroit auto show this week. Nike introduced its Nike+ Sportwatch GPS. Walgreens showcased various healthcare apps. Whirlpool showcased its Duet washer/dryers with LCD screens and various laundry apps. Ingersoll Rand showed off tech innovations around its Schlage home security and Trane thermostats products. There were many others.
CES is, of course, aimed at individual consumers. As you look at B2B markets you see the “buyor” theme even more forcefully.
Mark Mastrianni of GE from my book:
“In sector after sector, we find that technology suppliers sometimes lack deep domain knowledge when it comes to vertical technology solutions. That has opened the door for GE Healthcare, GE Transportation and other units to become technology leaders in their markets. We are a multi - billion dollar software and technology company in our own right.”
He goes on to explain how his role in corporate IT has evolved as a result
“Part of my role is to coach these business units on the unique nuances of technology sales compensation, revenue recognition, IP issues, and other technology industry opportunities and challenges.”
He could have added also coaching them on spare part depots, call centers, release planning, adjusting to Moore’s Law when it comes to pricing.
And therein lies the risk. The reality is enterprises have a poor track record with technology projects. Embedding technology in products, in some ways, jeopardizes more than an IT project. It could tarnish brands and lead to product liability.
But who knows their own products better than these companies? Who has been dealing with their customers for 20, 40, 80 years? There are overwhelming reasons for these companies to roll out their own next-gen, “smart” products in their markets.
So, tech vendors will see more co-optetion from these “buyors” in many verticals. But in other ways there will be new opportunities to partner with these organisms. And new analysts will emerge to track them. Get used to more of them.