“It was the best of times; it was the worst…”

No, that’s the Tale of Two Cities.

This tale involves two of America’s largest automation companies—Emerson and Rockwell Automation.

Several years ago both added “and software” to their marketing tag lines. 

I never thought I’d hear Emerson CTO Peter Zornio talk so glowingly about software. Now, that seems to be the company’s main message.

Meanwhile, Rockwell Automation went from telling me “it’s an experiment, Gary” to forging a deal with PTC to incorporate ThingWorx into Rockwell’s software suite enabling it to halt its own development. That led to Rockwell investing $1B in PTC leading to a seat on the board and closer looks at other PTC software. Its tag line in press releases added “and software.”

Rockwell hired software executive Brian Shepherd to head the Control and Automation group which included software. For a time Shepherd seemed like the go-to SVP.

Then stories of the increasingly deteriorating relations between PTC and Rockwell emerged. Evidently sales of ThingWorx were not what was expected by the parties.

Then, Rockwell acquires two software companies getting it into the cloud with Plex and FiiX. Then Rockwell divested its investment in PTC for $800M. And now Shepherd has left the company to “pursue other interests.” Replaced by someone with automation experience.

Oh, yes, the “software” tagline has long been replaced by digital transformation.

Meanwhile, I’ve received two new releases from Emerson extolling the benefits of software.

Maybe Marc Andreesen has moved on from his “software is eating the world” comment, but software in one way or another is “eating” the automation market.

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