My old friend Jim Pinto wrote a regular column for me at Automation World magazine. He was fond of predicting that Rockwell Automation had to be acquired because it had grown too large to grow at a respectable rate.

He based that on two articles from the Harvard Business Review.

He was partly right and partly not. Rockwell, along with all the other major industrial automation suppliers, have grown and matured. They can no longer maintain large rates of growth. The market has long since matured. But they are too large and have too fixed of a corporate culture to be acquired. All they can do is continue to look for smaller companies to acquire and build their service organizations.

They should not feel lonely. Here is one of my favorite writers, Om Malik, on the latest status of the large technology companies. Same song, different verse.

Whether it’s Apple, Google, or Amazon, most of these companies are facing the tyranny of large numbers. But if you are a regular reader, you already knew that. Apple is looking at “services” to boost its revenues. “Apple is reporting revenue of $90.8 billion for the March quarter, including an all-time revenue record in Services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, when announcing the company’s quarterly earnings. Services grew 8% on an annual basis, while hardware sales were down. The good news is that Apple continues to push and innovate on the core technology front — the latest M4 chip being a good example.

Mega-Growth for Apple and others is now in the rearview mirror. “If you’re making hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, you can’t really double it every year,” I said on the podcast. This is a natural evolution for the industry, as companies reach a point where their sheer size makes it difficult to maintain the rapid growth rates that investors have come to expect.

This new reality for technology giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft involves grappling with the challenges of being mature companies that have massive existing revenue streams. There are no more markets to conquer — these companies are the market. AI will definitely make these companies more profitable by enhancing efficiency and reinforcing their advantages. However, it is not quite clear how the market will eventually evolve.

That’s why in the industrial technology niche, there is only me as an independent (well, my colleague Walt Boyes has restarted his Insider newsletter). The magazines all still exist, but at reduced size. Most of the ads are purchased by master distributors. That tells me there’s not a lot of growth anticipated in automation, and that engineers reading those magazines mostly are buying parts. That also means not a lot of new products requiring new production lines—whether in factories or processing.

It is the same in the IT market. I dabbled working with units of Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Their interest in the manufacturing sector waned. They are trying to push the envelope with faster, more powerful compute. Oh, and also services.

Looks like we are in an era of stability and maturity until the next big thing—which will come from the next big need. This may be robotics, software, and medicines to help an aging population.

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