It must be scary to be a vendor...

Look at the poor vendors, and pity them. Well, maybe. Vendors are looking, aghast, as companies push for really open products, for really open fieldbus protocols, for cheap, durable products and for enhanced service. From a user's point of view, there's not a thing wrong with this...but think like a vendor for a minute. Vendors aren't in business to provide service and the best possible products to the end users of process automation. They are in the business of providing the highest possible revenue and net after taxes to their shareholders. Just like people who work for end user companies do, for their own shareholders. Here we have products being made into commodities by electronic purchasing, we have products being built cheaper, if not better, in Asia than can be made in the USA or Europe, we have products being adapted from other technologies, like telcom, to be used in plants where you used to only find the traditional automation system vendors. We have Microsoft, SAP and Oracle suddenly declaring momentous expertise in the plant floor automation environment. We have lots of people rolling their own using Linux and embedded controllers. We not only have a continuous pressure for prices to go down, but we have companies catering to the low price crowd like Automation Direct and EZAutomation and Omega. What's a poor vendor to do? Comments? --Walt Boyes

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