GE Digital reportedly to unwind, but its marketing gave the industrial Internet a boost

GE's grand plan to be a software giant appears to be over, but the company's marketing of IoT advanced the cause for a bevy of rivals such as C3 IoT.

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General Electric is reportedly looking to sell its Predix and software assets as it retreats from a grand plan to be a tech company and leader of the industrial Internet.

According to The Wall Street Journal, GE will auction off its technology assets, which include ServiceMax, Meridium as well as Predix. Former CEO Jeff Immelt pushed a strategy to make GE a top 10 software company by 2020.

That plan is now dead. Although GE will keep some software assets for its power and aerospace businesses, the company will shelve plans to be a major software provider. What a difference 3 years makes:

2018

2017

2016

2015

When the history of the Internet of things is written, GE will be remembered not so much for Predix, but the marketing of its software.

C3 IoT CEO Tom Siebel quipped to me in a previous interview that GE's marketing advanced his cause and the idea behind the industrial Internet more than his startup ever could. GE's marketing might alone--and the advertising that developers also could work for the company--raised awareness of the Internet of things.

C3 IoT raises $100 million, eyes global expansion | 3M taps C3 IoT as Internet of Things, AI platform | C3 IoT's Tom Siebel: CEO, boards driving IoT, digital transformation deals

GE's retreat from GE Digital looks shortsighted to me, but the company has larger issues that it needs to fix. Notably, GE needs to fix its balance sheet, focus and resize to survive and maybe even thrive. Detours into becoming a software company won't fly in that environment.

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In many respects, GE's retreat is similar to Ford's. Ford is also retooling and honing its focus even though it led the charge into smart transportation and mobility.

GE's Predix platform was already sucking wind so it's not like rivals such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, C3 IoT and IBM have any more market share to plow. What's likely to happen is that Honeywell and Siemens will gain software clout in industrial markets. Honeywell and Siemens have quietly pursued the GE strategy without the costs and marketing hubbub.

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