Rehumanize Yourself, iRobot!

I work all day at the factory
I'm building a machine that's not for me
There must be a reason that I can't see
You've got to humanize yourself
-- The Police, "Rehumanize Yourself"

Say you own stock in a company with an innovative management team. Its lead product is a huge hit; everyone knows about it, and many people use it. But then the genius behind the lead product leaves. And worse: He leaves for a company that's similar to, but not directly competitive with, the company he co-founded.

Welcome to iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT  ) , Fool.

This week, company co-founder and chief technologist Dr. Rodney Brooks stepped aside to begin work on a new venture called Heartland Robotics. According to its website, "Heartland Robotics is combining the power of computers -- embodied in robots -- and the extraordinary intelligence of the American workforce, to rehumanize and revitalize manufacturing."

Notice the language. Does iRobot need to rehumanize itself, as rocker Sting might say? I'm not so sure. But there's no doubting that Brooks is a critical component of iRobot's team. From his bio page at the website:

Dr. Rodney Brooks is the principal architect of iRobot's innovative proprietary software technology. He is also the Panasonic Professor of Robotics at MIT and the former director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. [Emphasis added.]

For its part, iRobot says that Brooks will continue as a member of the board of directors and as chairman of a new technical advisory board.

Color me unimpressed. Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) co-founder Jeff Hawkins cut his schedule to part-time to follow a passion for brain research. The result? Foleo, a bomb of a product that, despite technical promise, was pulled because it didn't solve any major problems for smartphone users. Should we really expect Brooks to do any better?

Our 115,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community doesn't:

Metric

iRobot

CAPS stars (5 max)

***

Total ratings

1,066

Bullish ratings

940

Percent Bulls

88.2%

Bearish ratings

126

Percent Bears

11.8%

Bullish pitches

242

Bearish pitches

32

Data current as of Sept. 3, 2008.

Brooks's leaving likely won't make these middle-of-the-roaders feel better, just as investors groaned when EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) replaced VMWare (NYSE: VMW  ) co-founder Diane Greene.

However, Greene's replacement was former Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) executive Paul Maritz, who brings with him a deep understanding of how to beat Mr. Softy. The search for Brooks's replacement will begin in 2009.

Why the delay, iRobot? As smart as Brooks is, I doubt he's any smarter, or more talented, than Jeff Hawkins. Move faster; your company needn't be the next Palm.

Get your clicks with related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Read more of Tim's Foolish writings. He also hunts for the best of tech as a contributor to Motley Fool Rule Breakers, which counts iRobot and VMware among its holdings. Try this market-beating service free for 30 days. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a robot, in a software sort of way.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 721405, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/21/2014 6:19:03 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement