back to article Software fees to make up 10% of John Deere's revenues by 2030

US farm machinery giant John Deere has estimated software fees will make up 10 percent of the company's revenues by the end of the decade. Chief executive John May offered the projection in a Wall Street Journal report on how Deere has plowed billions into developing self-driving tractors and crop sprayers that can tell the …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    Nothing Pulls Like a Deere

    And nothing stinks like a John.

    (Hat tip to the commentard who posted that very phrase on here months ago)

  2. Sudosu Bronze badge

    John Deere

    The new Sonos?

    Your family farms are belong to us.

    1. fwthinks

      Re: John Deere

      When some speakers stop working, the impact is only to those that own those speakers. If you brick a large numbers of farm machinery and farmers cannot grow or collect their crops, this starts to become a much wider risk that just to the farmer. What percentage of US farms use John Deere and what would be the impact of a large volume of its machinery stopped working overnight.

      We only need to look at what is happening with food in Ukraine to see that this is the next battleground. Hacking a company and bricking tractors is probably a lot easier and cheaper than traditional warfare. So at what stage does a government start to realize that sticking everything on the internet is not such a great idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: John Deere

        After the Russians and Chinese target John Deere's network and command every tractor to stop and never start again.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: John Deere

          And that's why we need to ban Japanese and Korean companies from importing vital agricultural equipment <waves American flag> <applause>

          1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Protectionism

            Why the downvotes for YAAC? Did your sarcasm detectors fail? John Deere likely does have lobbyists in Washington arguing for restrictions or tariffs on foreign-made farm equipment.

            1. ChoHag Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Protectionism

              YAAC forgot the icon.

              These are Americans, remember?

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: Protectionism

                If you pander to them they'll never learn

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Re: John Deere

        It is this aspect where software and online connective for so much equipment is now not just commonplace but a critical path in the operation that is completely overlooked.

        Companies can honk on endlessly about security blah, blah but at the end of the day nothing is truly secure once it has some for of connection to a public network,

        As you rightly point out, it is becoming far too easy now to create havoc by just sitting at a desk and hacking into networks. Manufacturers don't actually care because they are so big now that alternatives are limited., What is important to then is revenue, specifically recurrent OpEx revenue.

        Cars are now routinely connected "for your convenience" and people just accept it as the latest and greatest without a though of the consequences. The issues with keyless entry are bad enough but using an App on you phone to unlock is just crazy yet it is advertised as "super-cool".

        A few years ago a train somewhere on the outskirts of London stopped in a station but the doors could not be opened because some GPS information was either out of sync so the software did not believe it was in the station. Whilst not directly related it is still suing software to control something that previously a person and a button performed rather well.

        On the Cambrian Coast line they have been "testing" a new signalling system for years based on GPS, sensors and other such shite. It still does not appear to be reliably working.

        1. Tom 38

          Re: John Deere

          I like watching sports, and in the UK that means paying Sky - the dominant satellite pay TV provider - in one way or another. I use an OTT app called Now TV, which is provided by Sky, it allows me to buy just sports, and stream over the internet. The service however sucks. There's no live pause, rewind, fast-forward, and I can only watch it live.

          Sky have a new service called Sky Glass. It's Sky, but all OTT streaming. You can "record" things, and it just notes centrally that you have recorded that program and you can stream it whenever you want. Great, I'll have that - its all just software, so there's an app I can download for my existing TV or STB, right?

          Nope, you can only get Sky Glass if you buy a special Sky branded TV. Plus, "buy" is a strong word, you pay £10 up-front and then have a 48 month interest free loan (interestingly, they only have warranty for 24 months), which is worse than leasing, where they'd have to replace/fix it if it broke after 47 months.

          They've also got an amazing feature, skip ads - free for the first 12 months, then £5 a month. I've seen the future, and its monetized.

          1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

            Re: John Deere

            Getting rid of Sky is one of the best things we did. They were expensive and frustrating, and their attempts to trick us into a long and expensive contract at the end told us all we needed to know.

            When looking at the alternatives, we were taken aback by just how difficult it is to record stuff to watch later (and/or zoom through the ads, which have become a plague), especially compared to the VHS days. We still have our old video recorder lying around somewhere, probably among the pile of BBC Micros, Dragon 32s and VaxStations. Looks like it might be coming out of retirement.

            Kodi does decent enough service managing our DVDs, which I guess will become our default option (at least when available) but seems too awkward and crashy for recording TV.

          2. Zolko Silver badge
            Big Brother

            pay to skip ads

            skip ads - free for the first 12 months, then £5 a month

            wow, exactly like in the series Black Mirror (episode 2 I think). I wish the "system " didn't use dystopian science fiction as model, but rather as warning. Icon, obviously

  3. Alan Bourke

    Are thjere no other tractors available

    in the US?

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

      From what I've read, JD are following in the footsteps of Standard Oil, IBM, and a few others. If any other competitor looks like getting a foothold in an area, they'll use their size (and hence marketing budget) to target that area with special deals - thus making it a hard choice to pick another manufacturer. Additionally, a big issue is the support network - if a new comer comes along, they have quite a task to build the support network the farmers need before they'll buy that manufacturer's equipment.

      Thus, once someone like JD had a dominant position, it's really hard for anyone else to break that dominance unless they have really deep pockets.

      Added to that, it is a niche market. Manufacturers will sell millions of cars, vs thousands of tractors, and fewer combines. So there are few manufacturers in the market to start with.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

        Kind of ironically, back in the sixties the car manufacturer Standard Triumph International made most of its profits, and indeed most of its produced units, making Massey Ferguson tractors.

        They got out of that game and into what became British Leyland. The rest is, um, historical.

        -A.

        1. nobody who matters

          Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

          "........back in the sixties the car manufacturer Standard Triumph International made most of its profits, and indeed most of its produced units, making Massey Ferguson tractors.......".

          1940s/50s, rather than 60's. Most of the tractors they built were in fact Ferguson TE20 for Harry Ferguson until 1956; Ferguson having merged with Massey Harris in 1953. Standard-Triumph only built Massey Ferguson branded tractors from 1957 until 1959 when Standard Triumph sold their share of the tractor manufacturing operation, including the Banner Lane site in Coventry, to Massey Ferguson in 1959.

          1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge
            Coat

            Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

            Ah, now you bring back memories

            I used to be really "into" tractors - fanatical you might say. Till one ran over and killed my dog - that put me right off them.

            Some years later, I was in a pub with the then girlfriend and (this'll date it) it was getting a bit smoky. So I pursed my lips and started sucking, and sucking, and sucking, until the smoke was gone. She was amazed and asked how I could do that. I said "it's quite easy when you're an ex tractor fan".

        2. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

          "They got out of that game and into what became British Leyland. The rest is, um, historical."

          You mean hysterical, surely..... LOL

      2. Caver_Dave Silver badge

        Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

        When I was signing people up to make a possible FTTP broadband scheme financially viable, I had to get around 45% of people across 4 villages to sign up.

        BT just targeted the largest and offered people 2 years free broadband if they stayed for the duration.

        This is the same BT that refused to give us decent broadband despite the government money.

        Luckily many people realised what BT were up to and signed up with us anyway.

        Everything went in perfectly and we had uninterrupted broadband throughout the pandemic and working from home.

        1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

          Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

          Was that in one of the B4RN areas ? I know they posted on their website about how it was happening - and in some places scuppered their plans as people did sign up with BT. Of course, once the threat of competition was gone, BT "forgot" about the promises the sales people had made about the "imminent" upgrades to FTTC.

          IMO, BT manglement should have been hauled over the coals for that. Just shows how toothless our regulators (both Ofcon and CMA) are.

    2. nobody who matters

      Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

      ".....Are there no other tractors available in the US?..."

      Yes, lots, but Deere have a little over 50% market share in the USA, so are dominant. Their main competition comes from Mahindra, Case New Holland, AGCO (Massey Ferguson, Fendt and Valtra), Kubota and Claas.

      Apart from Mahindra, all of those use very similar electronic control systems and offer the option of the same type of electronic GPS related tractor and machine control 'Precision Farming' systems as John Deere, so they are all likely to be making similar proportions of income from software fees, and have the same degree of remote jurisdiction over their machines as JD do.

      It will be the Precision Farming systems where the main software related income will be coming from.

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

        Presumably the other impact is that because they are buying up all the old tractors, that market is also now being distorted.

        This works in several ways:

        They are removing old equipment that "just works" from circulation.

        They are pushing up prices so people either sell to get more money or cannot buy because it is too expensive

        It is further locking in the subscription.

        What would be interesting is whether automation is cheaper than a person.......

        It may be to start with but as ever, it rarely stays that way.

        Look how the supermarkets pretty much forced the closure of local shops, then killed of many more by creating the "Local & Express" shops. And now, prices in those shops are usually higher than the main supermarket.

        1. nobody who matters

          Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

          "..........What would be interesting is whether automation is cheaper than a person......."

          It is automation together with increasing size and workrates of equipment which has seen farms that employed 20 to 30 workers fifty years ago, now being able to farm the same area with only one or two workers.

          Increasing use of automation and the gradual introduction of autonomous/robotic equipment is continuing the trend to employing even less workers, so I would say that long term; yes automation is definitely cheaper than the cost of the number of humans that would be needed without it.

    3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Are thjere no other tractors available

      There are lots of tractor options. The problem is the fanboys. Deere's sales are up a large amount, most of their customers actively prefer what JD is offering. A handful of small independents are up in arms - the rest have taken their custom elsewhere, the remainder are the fanboys who prefer complaining about JD to buying alternatives.

  4. spireite Silver badge
    Coat

    Customers might complain, but....

    they will plough on regardless.

    The JD devs were probably hoping for a greenfield project.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Customers might complain, but....

      .... and continue to harvest profits.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Customers might complain, but....

      Their tech has certainly developed apace... did they get seed funding?

  5. Bitsminer Silver badge

    Embrace, Extend, Extract

    John Deere has had many competitors, e.g. Massey Ferguson, who drove themselves into the dust with managerial incompetence. Deere just happens to be the last man standing.

    The tech revolution in agriculture is just beginning. The combines and harvesters record gigabytes of data per hour. All is fed back to the manufacturer by WiFi and 5g. They then help the farmer "optimize" -- for a price -- their productivity and reliability.

    Food is as essential as air, obviously, and if you can monetize the essential, and extract the "maximum" value from the value chain, you win. So say the MBAs.

    It's worked for fertilizer producers, seed vendors, grain intermediaries, shipping companies. And it looks like it's going to work for John Deere.

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

      It's weird that a company is able to build a single model of tractor, and sell it with different licenses controlling the power output. If they can manage to build a powerful tractor and sell it at low price after throttling the power output with software, they don't have enough competition to drive down the prices.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

        >It's weird that a company is able to build a single model of tractor, and sell it with different licenses controlling the power output

        That's legitmately the one good use for DRM.

        Build 6 different models of engine, each with it's own emissions certification and set of spare parts = higher cost for all models, more expensive maintenance, longer waits for parts VS build one model and sell the power output the customer wants.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          variable engine power

          Problem #1: an internal combustion engine's power doesn't easily scale up or down as do computers. Any thing you do to "weaken" an engine's output (fuel/air starvation, "turning off" a cylinder or two) makes the lower-power modes fuel-inefficient. Even if you're not burning fuel in a cylinder, you still have to burn fuel to make it move, unless you have some sort of mechanical disconnect.

          Problem #2: you can't practically, legally enforce a "you only paid for a 250 HP engine, so if you crack the software to make it give you 300 HP" law without removing the ability for people to crack the software to bypass a "every 1000 engine hours disable the engine until a certified mechanic resets the purely-for-dealer-profit switch" feature.

        2. Sgt_Oddball

          Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

          Yeah.... Car companies have been doing that for years except its monolithic parts that are the same (say, the engine block) but surrounding bits are different. My wife's car for example have have 0.9, 1.0, 1.2 and 1.4 litre examples of the same engine. Then you get bits like turbos, physics kinda limit how much you can bugger around with them with the same part (my cars got a van engine in, the car has one massive turbo, the van more power and 2 smaller turbos... Though the car is significantly more efficient so different floats)

          1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

            Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

            Same with rail and marine diesel: the amount of power you need/want often determines how many cylinders and how much turbocharging you buy, the parts being mostly the same. That's been the case for nearly 100 years AIUI.

    2. PRR Silver badge

      Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

      > Deere just happens to be the last man standing.

      I remember, a decade or so back, that Deere was going out of business due to Asian (not EU not UK) gear makers stealing their low fruit and chewing their way up the core business.

      I remember Deere's first resort was to do deals to paint other-maker machines green and sell them at the Deere dealer. Basic design, foundry, machining is semi-commodified. Korea subcontracts China. India is the dozing elephant. (India has been a big player in small tractors for many decades; I see Indian machines from the 1980s still serving the horse-farm and fire-wood jobs.)

      In some way I am glad Deere has not become another Ford (doesn't make but one car anymore) or Dodge (old-design parts sold by Fiat). But they do seem to be overplaying their hand. And not securing the keys is really begging for the farmer's revolt.

      1. david 12 Silver badge

        Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

        One of the reasons Deere is big in North America is that they specialize in tractors for American farming conditions. They're smaller in the UK for the same reason.

        1. nobody who matters

          Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

          Large arable farming is very similar the world over, and requires similar equipment. Deere's market share in the UK has held steady at around 30% for some years now (although has dropped slightly over the last couple of years), not as much as the 53% share they have in the USA, but pretty dominant here nonetheless ;)

          1. ArrZarr Silver badge

            Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

            Sure, but the size of the fields and landscape aren't very similar the world over.

            Compare Iowa to County Durham. One is an unbelievably flat regular patchwork, the other is only hills with irregularly shaped fields to account for that.

            I'm not going to pretend to know much about farming, but there is an obvious difference in the size and regularity of fields compared between the two.

            1. nobody who matters

              Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

              All of which is of little consequence. Whilst smaller fields and hilly terrain in the UK can mean smaller machines, that is not necessarily the case. The equipment that is sold to farmers in North America is pretty much the same as that which is available to European/UK farmers, and there are a considerable number of the largest machines built principally for the US and other 'big acres farming' countries which are nontheless found working within the UK. Equally, not all of North American agriculture is massive arable fields, so there is a considerable sized market for smaller tackle there too.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Embrace, Extend, Extract

      "It's worked for fertilizer producers, seed vendors, grain intermediaries, shipping companies. And it looks like it's going to work for John Deere."

      And not forgetting biotech with their GM crops that either don't reproduce or are licenced in a way that you MUST buy seed from them, no holding back some the crop for next years planting. And the sue balls fired at adjoining farmers because their crops now contain some identifiable propriety GM seed from wind-blow.

  6. Cederic Silver badge

    it's not the software fees

    The 10% of revenue is immaterial. While it's odd to say that 10% of any company's revenue is immaterial, the software is a symptom: The vendor lock-in is what's driving that business. Through software (and hardware?) locks their farm equipment can't be maintained and repaired by third parties.

    I think farmers would be happy to pay for the software, as that provides features they want and need. What they also want and need is the ability to keep their farm machinery operational without having to schedule and pay heavily for supplier engineers and parts.

    Give John Deere a choice between the lock-in and software sales, they're going to go only one way. They'd give the software away for free to retain that tied revenue stream.

  7. FuzzyTheBear
    Mushroom

    Avoid.

    Best way to go about them is to simply not buy their products.

    End of life what you got and change supplier's the way to go.

    1. Skiver

      Re: Avoid.

      We're not talking about consumer products here. It's an easy choice when there are alternatives available and the stakes aren't high. These days there are few alternatives for farmers and they can't afford to just stop using what they have and use something else.

      1. nobody who matters

        Re: Avoid.

        Twaddle. There are plenty of alternatives of equal performance and ability. Problem is they will all have similar levels of electronics and related software - most of the income Deere will be getting from software licences will be for GPS related control systems. This will also be the case for the principal competitor machines in the mainstream arable marketplace.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Avoid.

          Twaddle. There are plenty of alternatives of equal performance and ability

          Nationally yes, locally no.

          Deere are not only dominant nationally (50% market share), but I defy anyone to overlay a map of Deere, CaseIH and Agco dealerships across the USA and tell me the layout is a result of open market dynamics.

          There's clear cartel activity going on with manufacturers divvying up territories amongst themselves. This has been going on for decades. Construction too - when Cat, Deere and CaseCE executives slip into a private meeting room at the AEM conference, it's not to play poker. They're settling their no-compete regions.

          Sure, "in principle" there's nothing stopping you from buying another brand - apart from the 400mile drive to the nearest dealership because you're in a <brand> territory and that's what's on offer. Good luck with parts and service.

          There's a huge antitrust case there for the FTC (and SEC actually, since most of them are publicly traded). But the revolving door between industry and regulators means they're well incentivised to look the other way.

          Anon for obvious reasons.

          1. nobody who matters

            Re: Avoid.

            Anon because you are talking rubbish.

            Local domination has come about purely because of the sparse population of dealerships and farmers tend to choose the nearest when the next one sellin a competing in make is twice as far away. Nothing to do with a cartel.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Avoid.

      Sure, but there's no other option.

      All the other farm equipment manufacturers were (note: not "are") inept buffoons that shot themselves in the head (or foot)

      If they weren't, Deere bought 'em up. Anti-monopoly regulators?? Who?

      It's like cellphones where you have Google or Apple, so you grit your teeth and take the least crap option for your situation.

      For farm equipment, you don't even have that much choice.

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Only tractors?

    'Cause I've got a brand new combine harvester and I'll give you the encryption key

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Only tractors?

      Brilliant!

  9. 20TC

    Fair price

    Problem is nobody wants to pay a 'fair' price for hardware any more. From your printer to your tractor (and we're all probably guilty of buying the former at some point, if not the latter!)

    So all hardware vendors sell the hardware at closer and closer to cost because they realise they can make their profit from consumables or 'data' subscriptions.

    Fine. But there should always be a 'default' mode whether the printer works "OK" without premium ink/paper and the tractor carries on tractoring albeit without GPS guidance, etc.

  10. Mr D Spenser

    and what could possibly go wrong

    Two statements from the article.

    ...the company now plans to have 1.5 million machines and half a billion acres of land connected to the John Deere Operations Center within a matter of years."

    "Turns out our entire food system is built on outdated, unpatched Linux and Windows CE hardware with LTE modems."

    Moving to the now essential corporate subscription model is easy, but do they understand the consequences if they don't do it securely. Do they understand just how much of a state sponsored target they will be?

    Here's hoping that they are not relying on a bunch of intern written javascript to protect the world's food supply.

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: and what could possibly go wrong

      "do they understand the consequences if they don't do it securely."

      Sure they do. If they don't spend money on security, they get more (short-term) profit. Failed crop harvests due to hostile-nation farm-equipment takeovers are not their problem.

  11. Auntie Dix
    Stop

    Time to Shoot a Deere Right Between the Eyes

    A customer may not get parts for and fix his own equipment...or run on his equipment his choice of cloud-free, unlocked OS?

    I hope that a mountain of lawsuits works to inhibit Deere's ruthless, monopolistic behavior. Legislators seem to be taking their sweet time.

    Farmers must not be beholden to the cloud-only software games of today (or, worse, tomorrow). This profiteering is spreading as nefariously as Digital Restrictions Management, essentially poisoning our food supply for decades to come.

    All of us will pay any Deere fees shoved on the farmer.

  12. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    What Could be Useful for the Farmers ...

    Is a set of GPLed, publicly-available, basic farm-equipment designs with the simplicity and reliability of the Volkswagen Beetle. No PulseAudio or Systemd, please.

    A potential problem might be that mechanical (vs computer-controlled) carburetion/fuel-injection and ignition might be sufficiently-inefficient to make the vehicles too costly for farmers to run them.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What Could be Useful for the Farmers ...

      This isn't a problem of modern engines needing computers. This is deliberate user fee lockin. The filter needs to be swapped every X hours then the engine will stop at X hours until the official service agent has swapped the filter and reset the clock.

      But of course this isn't a user fee per X hours, it's genuinely that a filter lasts precisely X hours in all circumstances and can only be swapped by the official service agent.

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: What Could be Useful for the Farmers ...

        Who will charge you 4 hours and a call out fee to do a 10minute job.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: What Could be Useful for the Farmers ...

          Or more worryingly is in a city 2 hours drive away and has an area the size of a european country to cover and isn't due to your farm for 4-6 weeks and it's the middle of harvest

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What Could be Useful for the Farmers ...

      "the simplicity and reliability of the Volkswagen Beetle."

      Have you seen the current incarnation of the VW Beetle? Few people buy cheap, basic, easily maintainable cars these days. They are more likely to lease something flashy. Cars as a Service has already arrived.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Vehicles-as-a-Service, farmers vs people in other professions

        Have I seen modern Beetles? Yes, I have. They are not cheap, basic, and easily-maintainable. I was intentionally referring to the earlier Beetle designs -- 1970s and earlier -- which were cheap, basic, and easily maintainable. (I'm ignoring VW's early, failed attempt at computerized engine diagnosis.)

        Vehicles-as-a-service has existed for years for farm equipment, via leases. You take a terrible economic hit from leasing vehicles, but if you want to always be driving the latest-and-greatest BMW/Mercedes/etc. status-toy, then it may be worth it to you. Some modern farm vehicles can cost upwards of a quarter-million dollars; that combined with lower lease payments (yet higher effective interest rates) than loan payments for outright purchases, has swayed some farmers into going with the VAAS model.

        In my experience, farmers (vs ordinary people) typically are much-more-careful with their money, and much-more-inclined than ordinary people to want to, and be able to, fix things themselves. Having grown up in a rural area, I have driven tractors, farm trucks, combines, etc., and have done light maintenance on them. But those all were relatively-small-scale, mechanical-and-electrical devices which could be kludge-fixed with bailing wire and duct tape, vs modern, computerized-everything-devices.

        When it's harvest time, you need that damn thing running right fucking now, not whenever Mr./Ms. Service Tech makes it out from the (these days, not-so-local) dealership. I've helped add auxiliary lights onto the outside of harvesters which didn't originally have them, so the machines could run 24/7.

  13. Nifty

    Mercedes have gone one better. They made twice as much profit last year from lending money, as from manufacturing cars.

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Yes.

      Most businesses today are finance operations, not manufacturers. I "obtained" my current motor on a lease chosen largely on the basis of the monthly payments. This actually suits me since I doubt that, at the end of the lease, anyone will be driving ICE-powered cars.

      -A.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        That was GE's problem, GE capital was the only bit that made any money so they stopped investing in all hat tedious making engines business. Then when the financial crisis happened and GE Capital was in trouble the whole company had to be 'rescued' so we still had engines

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      And Ford Credit. Dunno what the situation is now, but when I was contracting for them it was the biggest part of Ford Motor Company

      1. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

        Hitachi as well - former industrial giant that now makes a substantial part of its profit by offering personal loans.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Well, all these $BigCorp have to put their huge profits somewhere. It earns nothing sitting in a bank, might even depreciate, while the bank makes profits lending it out. Can't give it away as bonuses or dividends, that attracts taxes. So why not just become their own bank instead? Win Win for $BigCorp. And they are all run by bean counters anyway. They always need more beans to count.

    3. Snowy Silver badge
      Coat

      Like how airlines make more money from banking than flying planes.

      1. Norman Nescio Silver badge
        Coat

        Banking and flying

        Like how airlines make more money from banking than flying planes.

        To be fair, flying planes without banking is difficult. It's a rookie mistake when first learning to fly to try and alter heading without banking*.

        I'll get my coat.

        *You can use differential thrust, like United Airlines Flight 232, but it's not very controllable.

    4. PRR Silver badge
      Pirate

      > twice as much profit last year from lending money, as from manufacturing cars.

      For once, Ford was ahead of the racket. Henry made tons of money until the Chevy ate his lunch around 1928. So much profit that he coasted into and through WWII. By that time Henry was too erratic and his family installed his grandson. Who brought in ex-GM men, also Whiz Kids to straighten things out. One of the recommendations was to get out of the money-losing car making business and focus on Ford Finance. Well, there was no "soul" in that path so we got the 1949 Ford. But {as david12 says} Ford Finance got a reputation as one of the best finance organizations in the world.

      For a decade my house mortgage was held by GMAC, General Motors, same thing at the other company.

      And yeah, GE.

  14. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

    Unbricking?

    "Turns out our entire food system is built on outdated, unpatched Linux and Windows CE hardware with LTE modems."

    So, were those tractors in Chechnya unbricked by a mob of Petersberg boys? If you can install Doom, surely you can simply remove any DRM or what-not and merrily go back to ploughing?

    1. ChoHag Silver badge

      Re: Unbricking?

      We don't talk about that bit. We talk about the "bricking" from afar of stolen equipment and how that underlines the claim that DRM is a good thing and stay quiet about the part where people can simply remove the brick and how that undermines the claim that DRM is a good thing.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Unbricking?

        We certainly don't talk about the technology demonstrator used in Ukraine/Russia. Well, Deere's PR people could, and did tell the world about that capability.

        So come planting/harvesting season, hostile state actor/skiddie decides to brick all Deere gear in the US, EU, or wherever. Oh Deere. Or I'm guessing Deere keeps all this in the 'cloud', so it may just fall over whenever AWS or Azure has another bad day.

  15. nobody who matters

    Article relates to the software fees that John Deere get from their customers.

    These will be almost entirely coming from licensing of software systems for GPS related 'Precision Farming' (GreenStar/Starfire) - autonomous self steering, area and performance monitoring and yield mapping, variable seed/fertiliser application systems etc. They aren't charging fees for the software in the engine ECU or the ECUs controlling the hydraulics and the basic functions of the machine.

    Some folk here are going off at a tangent.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      They aren't charging fees for the software in the engine ECU or the ECUs controlling the hydraulics and the basic functions of the machine.

      Computer says 'No', and work stops until the authorised Deere service rep resets the status code and invoice is paid. Alternatively, farmer used to be able to apply hammer until machine started working, and planting/harvesting could continue. Doctrine of first sale does not apply.

      Alternatively, it could be a job for an API. So the 'Precision Farming' stuff could mostly be done with a laptop or smart phone. Self-driving and sensor integration could be a bit riskier, or trickier. Or not if all that's sitting on a CAN bus. If it is, then it'd create a market for the 'Precision Farming' bits, and competition in both features and price. Which is surely a GoodThing(tm). Unless you're John Deere(tm) and looking forward to growing that 10%, very high margin business.

      1. nobody who matters

        Jellied eel - this has nothing to do with service/repair and disabling the machine until a bill is paid.

        It is about the licensing of software which runs within the onboard performance/work monitoring systems and the GPS licensing that goes along with all that. That is what the licensing income is from.

        All the mainstream manufacturers have this GPS/precision farming software available for those owners/operators who want it, and they all charge a licensing fee for it. Deere is apart from the other manufacturers in that they have their own bespoke GPS system where the other manufacturers (or the farmers themselves) buy in a GPS system in from a company such as Trimble, FJD or NovaTel among others.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Jellied eel - this has nothing to do with service/repair and disabling the machine until a bill is paid.

          And yet the article says..

          The FTC complaint alleged that Deere's repair business is three to six times more profitable than its agricultural machinery sales business because farmers and ranchers have to pay thousands of dollars up front for access to the Customer Service Advisor, which provides repair information but still does not enable them to perform common repairs on their own.

          So you pay thousands for CAN bus access, and thousands more for 'authorised' service/repairs, and then more thousands for the GPS features..

          1. jake Silver badge

            If you want a real eye-opener, check out the ratio of JD sales profits to service profits over the last couple decades or thereabouts. Interesting graph, that.

    2. cosymart
      Trollface

      Some folk here are going off at a tangent.

      @nobody who matters - It's called the internet (magnified by a large % if you are on El Reg). If you have just bought a shiny new PC you have a very steep learning curve. If you are a dyed in the wool subscriber you are trolling :-)

      1. nobody who matters

        Re: Some folk here are going off at a tangent.

        Neither, I have had 40 years in agriculture and actually know how all this works wirth regard to that industry. It is becoming ever more apparent that a large proportion of the commentards on here do not have any understanding of agriculture, nor any comprehension of why and where the income that agricultural machinery manufacturers are making from software licensing is actually coming from.

        No amount of downvotes is going to alter that.

  16. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Coat

    Farming the farmers

    -> I've got a new licence agreement for you to sign

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Farming the farmers

      I think it's more likely to be:

      "Your licence conditions have changed. 15% of your crop now belongs to us and the board also has first refusal of your first born daughter. Continued use of your essential farming equipment implies full and complete acceptance of these updated terms."

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. steviebuk Silver badge

    And this...

    ...is the reason they are against right to repair.

  19. xyz Silver badge

    Welcome to 1970 with buttons

    All tractors suffer from the same cartel shit. Doesn't matter what make or what software ( or lack if it) is in it. No manufacturer will give out even basic maintenance info... You have to take the thing to an authorised repair centre, usually about 40kms away from the field you are in. So the bill (inc tow truck) always starts at 2000 euros because the authorised repair centre knows it has you by the balls until you get the thing back. I can imagine that a connected agricultural device will break down everytime A) you need to use it and B) when the manufacturer needs a bit of extra cash. The whole industry is a con... I'm a farmer.

  20. x 7

    China?

    And how much does Deere buy from China?

    Where do they source all that wireless and remote networking gear?

  21. Kev99 Silver badge

    When we were farming in the 70s we didn't need or use any computers. We used our eyes and experience. JD is just working on new profit sources.

  22. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge
    WTF?

    example

    An example of what farmers are complaining about -- one model of John Deere uses a ~$100 or so a pop diesel fuel injector, it's a Bosch injector. But it's not, it's a Bosch injector with a John Deere chip on it, chipped like the inkjet cartridges so you must take it to a dealer (they won't sell you injectors) and pay $1000+ for it. Or get your tractor rooted (seriously, there's grey market eastern european engine control software that bypasses the checks for geniune john deere hardware.)

    1. nobody who matters

      Re: example

      ...and totally irrelevant to the thread. John Deere are NOT making a licensing charge for their diesel injectors (or any other similarly chipped component).

      The software that they are licensing farmers to use is related to their GPS/precision farming systems. Why can't some of you get your heads arounfd that simple fact!

      1. teknopaul

        Re: example

        Totally relevant, it's evidence of the way that company works and they are essentially taking a 900 licensing fee on parts.

        John Deere are synonymous with evil Corp these days. No reason for it other that greed on their part and a non-existent government regulation of monopolies.

  23. teknopaul

    All your eggs in one basket

    Where eggs = food supply for the entire nation.

    And the basket has a remote brick me function.

    What could possibly go wrong.

    Surely nobody wants to....

    Hmm, maybe pissing off Putin on the subject might not have been wise.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Organic robot farmer

    "will collect and store crop data, including millions of images of weeds that can be targeted by herbicide."

    If it can identify each individual plant, then why not zap it with a laser, or pull it with a robot arm, and avoid the herbicide? Organic has higher sale value.

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