Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward

Data Sheet—Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May 5, 2015, 1:01 PM UTC
Fortune

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. PTC wants to be a serious contender in Internet of things analytics. Livestreaming app Meerkat is reducing its dependence on Twitter. Plus, why Cisco’s choice of Chuck Robbins as John Chambers’ successor shouldn’t be as surprising as its seems. Make Tuesday a great day!

TOP OF MIND

Why I wasn’t surprised by Cisco’s succession plan. Long-time CEO John Chambers signaled his retirement timeline three years ago but the company’s introduction of sales veteran Chuck Robbins as his successor early Monday seemed to catch many off-guard. After all, the odds-on favorite was Cisco President Rob Lloyd.

I sensed something was up several weeks ago. That’s when my upcoming phone interview with Robbins—with whom I was scheduled to chat about Cisco’s evolving sales strategy—was suddenly and mysteriously postponed. The official reason for the delay was the networking giant’s upcoming earnings on May 13. But my radar went up, especially since Cisco initiated the interview in the first place.

I’ve actually known Robbins for more than a dozen years, primarily because of his role as the lead executive for Cisco’s U.S. sales partner program. In that position, he earned deep respect as a leader who demanded execution but was extremely accessible and fair. “Chuck has a warmth and connection with people that is rarely seen at the CEO level of companies like this," one reseller told trade publication CRN, which has followed Robbins’ rise closely.

When it comes to using indirect sales partners to reach new corporate accounts successfully—and build market share—Cisco’s track record and history of innovation is rivaled only by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. Robbins is a big part of that, mainly because of his listening skills and seemingly endless energy.

Apparently, the Cisco board was incredibly thorough—and very data-driven—in its selection. Every director interviewed every internal candidate. Their “straw poll” decision to pick Robbins was unanimous. “Chuck embodies all the characteristics and traits we had outlined initially for the ideal Cisco CEO,” the board wrote in its blog about its process. “Taken together, his authentic leadership, cultural fit, technical acumen, and vision for Cisco, set Chuck apart from the balance of the candidates, both externally and internally.

I just read Re/code’s thoughtful analysis of the four things Robbins should concentrate on first when he takes over on July 26. The suggestions aren’t all that surprising, and I agree with all of them. But the one that resonates most is the call for simplification.

Several years ago, I helped Cisco’s channel marketing team with some research and communications strategy. At the time—and I have no reason to believe things are all that different today—every employee wore an ID badge listing the company’s top corporate priorities on the back. There were close to 30 for them to remember. Way too many. Robbins needs to help Cisco prioritize.

What I remember most from my own interactions with Robbins, 49, are his ready, genuine smile along with the traces of a southern drawl cultivated during his North Carolina childhood. I always felt he was as candid as possible during interviews. Thoughtful, yet decisive.

From one Southern gentleman to another. What a fitting way for John Chambers to pass the baton.

TRENDING

Meerkat reduces its dependence on Twitter. The app now supports live streams to Facebook profiles. It’s a great way of differentiating from its toughest rival, Periscope. Both are under scrutiny this week after users pirated and livestreamed portions of the big Mayweather-Pacquiao fight over the weekend. “While Twitter is busy trying to promote itself as a partner for media entities like HBO and Showtime, the success of things like Periscope makes it seem more like a competitor than a partner,” reports Fortune’s Mathew Ingram.

Carly Fiorina finally declares. Hewlett-Packard’s former CEO, the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, officially threw her name into the pool of Republican presidential candidates. She talks up her CEO credentials as a differentiator from the field, although her record there is already under not-so-flattering scrutiny.

Will a robot replace your corporate bookkeeper? The list of big companies automating this function is growing, reports The Wall Street Journal. Verizon Communications, as one example, has reduced its finance department by at least 21% over the past several years through software automation.

THE DOWNLOAD

PTC builds Internet of things analytics strategy with $105 million acquisition

Manufacturing software company PTC believes predictive maintenance will be one of the first clear killer apps for the Internet of things, a credible theory given big investments in this area by GE and Caterpillar.

Naturally, PTC wants a piece of the action. So, it’s paying $105 million to buy ColdLight, which makes machine learning technology that detects patterns in data collected from sensors embedded in medical devices, manufacturing equipment and consumer products.

By analyzing those metrics, ColdLight’s software can tell when a specific component might be nearing failure. It could also offer suggestions about future ways to improve product design.

“Now, we’ve gone from a dashboard telling me about the thing to a set of instructions telling me what to do about it,” PTC President and CEO Jim Heppelmann told Fortune during an interview about the software company’s industrial Internet strategy. He likens this to the “voice of the product.”

The ColdLight acquisition, announced Tuesday morning at a customer conference, represents PTC’s third sizable investment in this area. It previously acquired two other software companies: ThingWorx ($112 million) and Axeda ($170 million).

PTC is on pace to add more than 200 customers for these solutions during fiscal year 2015, essentially double the current account list. Although the revenue contribution is small within the company’s overall mix (less than $10 million for the second quarter, within a $314 million total), it added 62 new customers for the three months ended April 4.

PTC’s Internet of things mantra is already building considerable traction among medical device manufacturers, including the top 10 biggest companies, according to Heppelmann. One uses PTC’s software to remotely calibrate more than 9,000 machines; it realized a return on its investment within one month. “The dollars and cents that can be saved on the business side are mind-boggling,” he said.

Another client is mining equipment company Joy Global, which equips its operations center with PTC software to monitor maintenance needs, environmental metrics and safety conditions deep underground on behalf of its own clients. For example, mine operators can tell whether pumps are running hotter than expected or when tunnel ceilings are begin to collapse.

“It lets our customers focus on things that could take the system down,” said Joy Global President Ted Doheny. “They get so much data already, that it’s turning data into spam. This [software] turns data into information.”

The ColdLight acquisition will also serve as the foundation for PTC’s futuristic strategy of creating a “digital twin” for every physical thing monitored via sensors and a wireless Internet connection.

For example, sensors on a racing bike could feed data into a three-dimensional model in PTC’s computer-aided design software (such as the one pictured), measuring metrics such as how changes in speed or weight might affect performance. That data could be used to suggest future product changes, such as modifications to the structure or materials. Alternatively, the technology could warn the rider about wear-and-tear on certain components.

“It helps you understand physically inaccessible things or comprehend products that have traditionally been too small to measure,” Heppelmann said.

PTC faces some stiff competition in Internet of things analytics, and services including IBM, which is investing more than $3 billion in this area; and EMC’s Pivotal division, which recently hired influential developer Benjamin Black to reshape its strategy.

ALSO WORTH SHARING

Google buys time management software company. It paid an undisclosed sum for Timeful, which uses artificial intelligence to customize digital calendar apps. The technology is being folded into the Google Apps group.

This startup wants children to build their own PCs. Kano computers encourages kids to develop programming skills at an early age—playing off their love of Legos. It just raised $15 million, led by Breyer Capital, to expand its mission.

Here’s how much money was wasted by Comcast and Time Warner on their failed merger: more than $550 million.

Motorola Mobility owes Fujifilm over patents. It must pay damages of $10.2 million related to several digital camera features in its smartphones. The good news is that it could have been fined $40 million.

T-Mobile is at it again. This time, the “Uncarrier” is giving free two-week trials to Verizon customers and offering up to $650 to buy out their contracts.

MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS

Can Microsoft convince IT pros to make the tricky transition to the cloud? by Barb Darrow

Facebook-led group tries to mend fences over free Internet service in India by Kia Kokalitcheva

What not to say to Sheryl Sandberg by Jill Smolowe

GE Lighting signs up with Apple’s HomeKit for consumers and Qualcomm for retailers by Stacey Higginbotham

Why I went with my gut and turned down a job at Google by Carol Leaman

ONE MORE THING

Why Dave Goldberg’s death is a huge loss for Silicon Valley. As new details emerge over the cause, the flood of tributes continues.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Cornerstone Convergence: Connect, collaborate. (May 11 - 13; Los Angeles)

Cloud Foundry Summit: Open source development. (May 11 - 12; Santa Clara, California)

Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 - 20; Boston)

Signal: The modern communications conference. (May 19 - 20; San Francisco)

MuleSoft Connect: Tie together apps, data and devices. (May 27 - 29; San Francisco)

MongoDB World: Scale the universe. (June 1 - 2; New York)

HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference: Future of iOS and OS X. (June 8 - 12; San Francisco)

Hadoop Summit San Jose: Mainstreaming adoption. (June 9 - 11; San Jose, California)

Red Hat Summit: Energize your enterprise. (June 23 - 26; Boston)

Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)

LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 - 19; Seattle)

VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)

Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)

BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 - 30; San Francisco)

Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 - Oct. 1; Las Vegas)

HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 - 6; San Diego)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: World's largest gather of women technologists. (Oct. 14 - 16; Houston)

Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)