GE plans to launch independent industrial IoT company, unloads ServiceMax: Too little, too late?

GE said it will launch an independently run industrial Internet of things company, but will need a new CEO as Bill Ruh will depart. Can GE's latest industrial IoT effort succeed?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

GE said that it will launch an industrial Internet of things company that consists of its software portfolio including its Predix platform. Separately, GE said it will sell a majority stake in ServiceMax, a software firm acquired in 2016, to Silver Lake.

The moves come as parent company GE is struggling with debt and growth at its various units including GE Power.

In a statement, GE said its industrial IoT company will have about $1.2 billion in revenue and a global base of companies. The company will have its own brand, identity, equity structure, but be owned by GE.

As for the portfolio, the new company will products including Predix, Asset Performance Management, Automation, Manufacturing Execution Systems, Operation Performance Management and GE Power Digital and grid software.

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Perhaps the biggest challenge for GE's new IoT effort will be landing developers and growing wallet share with existing customers. A developer survey by the Eclipse Foundation found that IoT developers are flocking to AWS and Microsoft Azure as their preferred platforms.

When asked about cloud platform's GE's Predix was among the last cited as options.


And on the IoT software front, companies like C3 have large production deployments in the field. Uptake is also developing its products and competing with GE's software. The turn of events is notable given that GE marketing largely popularized the industrial IoT market even though other tech players benefited.

GE has also lost key technology executives. For instance, Ganesh Bell was named president of Uptake in February. Bell was GE's first chief digital officer. And GE Digital CEO Bill Ruh will leave the company to "pursue other opportunities." That means GE will need a new CEO for its industrial IoT firm. GE said it will conduct an internal and external search for a CEO of the new company.

Consider the momentum by the competitors to GE's new industrial IoT company:

The lack of traction for GE Digital is a comedown considering the unit had big plans as recently as 2015.

Is it too late for GE in industrial IoT?

Whether you buy into GE's new structure for its industrial IoT business largely depends on whether you think it's too late to grab meaningful market share.

GE CEO Lawrence Culp said in a statement that an independent structure for GE's digital business will enable it to focus on its core markets. The argument for Culp is also that industrial IoT is a nascent market.

Indeed, it is early in the game for industrial IoT, but GE's effort will need to bolster partnerships quickly. C3 has partnered with all the major cloud providers and that means it can ride shotgun on deals with the likes of Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google Cloud Platform.

While GE was early in the industrial Internet of things it ultimately wound up falling behind tech giants. Here's a recent Forrester Wave on GE's standing:


In GE's favor is that it has a lot of industrial assets in the field for digital twins. Keep in mind the real value of having equipment in the field like turbines may be the data acquired from them. GE has a huge base of assets in the field.

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More details will be released about GE's new company in the first quarter. One thing is clear: The new company will have some catching up to do even as industrial IoT projects are at the center of many digital transformation efforts.

Sale of ServiceMax may bring focus

When GE acquired ServiceMax, the plan was to bring more software heft and scale to GE Digital. The plan didn't work.

GE said it will sell a majority stake to ServiceMax and keep a 10 percent stake in the firm. GE Digital will also resell ServiceMax software and have integration deals in place.

The company said ServiceMax under Silver Lake will have more ability to partner and grow its field service management roadmap. ServiceMax has more than 400 customers across various asset-heavy industries.

Financial details of the ServiceMax sale weren't disclosed. GE bought ServiceMax for $915 million two years ago.

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