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Posts tagged: Spokane technology

Do you know your Itronix end-of-life trivia? If so, grab a free coffee card

There won't be many more chances to write about Itronix, the tech product line that recently died a quiet death as a small business segment within the belly of defense contractor General Dynamics Corp.

See today's story for the account of how the once-proud Spokane-launched product line went into the dark.

The graphic here is compliments of Syed Khusro, who worked as VP of engineering at Itronix up through last November, including the change of location from Spokane Valley to Sunrise, Fla.

On this occasion, we'll offer up two $5 coffee cards to people who can answer the following two trivia questions correctly. Post answers here, don't send emails because we won't see them anyway.

Question 1:   Name three of the companies that at one time owned Itronix. We're talking about starting in 1994 and going forward until 2013.

Question 2:   Which of the following companies made a very serious effort at buying Itronix but never did (choose just one)?  Asus, Dell, Gryphon, Avista, Motorola, Siemens, Fujitsu.

You need to answer both correctly to win. Extra entries not allowed. Current or past employees of Cowles Co. are not eligible.

The two earliest correct entries get the coffee cards.

Goodbye Itronix. General Dynamics pulls the plug on line of ultrarugged computers

The Itronix product line, at one time one of the area's chief tech products, is finished.

General Dynamics, which acquired Itronix in 2005, confirmed this week it's dropped the production of all GD Itronix “rugged” products.

Itronix was a spinoff from metering firm Itron. Its original product line was handheld meters used by utility crews. Over time it expanded into rugged, highly durable laptops and tablets.

In 2009 General Dynamics, one of the nation's largest defense contractors, announced it would move all Itronix operations from Spokane to Florida. That decision resulted in the loss of 380 Spokane jobs.

Last winter General Dynamics plugged the plug. A company spokesman sent this note this week:

“Regarding General Dynamics Itronix products, we continually assess our business and make changes to ensure efficiency in our operations.In September 2012, we determined that it is in the best interest of our customers and business to end-of-life the General Dynamics Itronix branded computing products.  We will ensure that customer support for products under warranty obligations will be honored.”

You have to wonder how the phrase “end-of-life” ever became a verb.

As a blogger at RuggedPCReview Blog put it, Itronix was a company whose ownership was always in flux.

“Itronix was started in 1989 as a unit of meter-reading company Itron …It was then sold to rugged computer maker Telxon in 1993. In 1997, telecom testing gear company Dynatech Corp. bought Itronix from Telxon for about $65 million. Dynatech changed its name to Acterna in 2000, but fell on hard times and sold Itronix to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital in 2003 for just US$40 million in cash. Golden Gate held on to it for a couple of years before General Dynamics came along. — The band Jefferson Starship comes to mind here, with Grace Slick charging 'Someone always playing corporation games; Who cares they're always changing corporation names.' ”

A pictorial salute to Bernard Daines; four images from the SR archives

It was probably one of 2012's high points for me to have the chance to meet up with Bernard Daines this past month, and include him in our end-of-year “Catching Up With” series at Spokesman.com.

This collage shows four file photos, On top left, Daines back in 1997 as he was developing Packet Engines. At the right on top, an image from before Daines moved from Silicon Valley to Spokane, which appeared in the San Jose newspaper.

Below left, a staff photo back in 2002 as Daines was guiding Worldwide Packets. On the right, a recent photo taken by Jesse Tinsley.

North Idaho’s Pacinian riding a wave

Our Sunday Spokesman-Review article on the new technology developed by Pacinian Corp. was the most-viewed story online at Spokesman.com on Monday. The company is creating ultrathin keyboards and keypads for the computer, health and automotive industries.

In light of today's real opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we'll offer a free link to that story. And we'll plan on adding CES updates that have a relationship to the Inland Northwest.

Thanks for reading…

ReliOn announces another round of backing, expanding sales goals

Spokane Valley fuel cell developer, ReliOn, announced Tuesday it's gained an additional $6 million in further investment from its existing backers.

The money, according to a ReliOn release, will help push further U.S. commercial sales and expand marketing and sales internationally.

The focus in Europe derives, in part, from ReliOn's recently announced partnership with HOPPECKE Batteriren GmbH, a major European innovator and producer of battery systems.

A press release Tuesday noted that privately held ReliOn has enjoyed a nice upward swing in sales and gross profit.

The release also quoted CEO Gary Flood saying, “With this funding, we are able to accelerate a number of important programs currently underway which move the company toward our objective of becoming the first profitable fuel cell company.”

Who’s to blame for the loss of Agilent, Itronix? Here’s one view

A few weeks back we ran a story on the impact felt locally when Agilent Technologies and General Dynamics Itronix closed down their Spokane plants. 

Thanks to those who offered some helpful comments there on the Spokesman.com site.

For the sake of discussion, I'll drop in two comments. The first (from “Obewan”)  is a bit lengthy:

Both companies' upper management made those decisions based on their own internal information as to what was best for their business. Yes, a poor economy and the latest recession played a very big part, but only because these local branches were not in a position to pull their weight when times got tough. .. In Agilent’s case, the progressive decisions to leave Spokane were driven by the consequences of poor management moves in the preceding years: millions of R&D funding were spent developing the wrong product at the wrong time, making it unviable in the marketplace….

   As for Itronix, its upper management did not understand what General Dynamics wanted of it when they bought it, and/or did not communicate those directives to the next level of management and product design. GD over-reacted by scraping out a good vehicle that just needed some tune ups and new tires, but that was their choice. If Itronix had been making the money that GD expected, you can be assured GD would have not disturbed the production of golden eggs. In both cases, local management let their Spokane workforce down and the employees suffered the consequences.

PHOTO credit: (I don't know who shot it. But ex-Agilent guy Tim Plass forwarded it to the SR.)

READ the next comment on the continuation of this post, below: 

The world of connected TVs: Are you sure you want to go there?

Thursday's Spokesman-Review will feature a story on “cord-cutting,” the relatively small effort by consumers to find alternatives to paid-TV (through cable, satellite or telco systems). 

We gathered a few personal stories of folks using alternatives to the standard systems. We asked experts to explain how this would all shake out.

Bottom line: most experts conclude it's too early to decide if we're seeing a mass transformation in the home entertainment world.

Nate Kraft, director of product development for Los Angeles-based Belkin, pointed out a study our story didn't include. But it's relevant to the subject, which includes the assumption that newer stuff is better.

Kraft noted that a Boston ad company did an experiment to see how most Americans feel about cutting the cord and adopting some of the new technology that works to deliver shows, movies and music into our TVs.

We quote from a story on TechCrunch:

“Hill Holiday, a 'caffeine-fueled ad agency,' asked five Boston-area families to participate in a cord-cutting experiment. For one week each family was asked to forgo traditional cable TV in favor of one of the following devices: Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee Box, Xbox 360, and Roku. These devices, of course, are the premier devices for people looking to break free of their cable company while still being able to enjoy television. And how did it turn out for these five families?

“While our sample was by no means representative, the results of our experiment point us toward some real issues that one should consider when thinking about the future of  the “connected TV” technologies.

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