Some of John Deere's competitors have criticized the company for keeping some of its vehicle functions proprietary — that is, written in a language that only its brand of equipment can understand. Although you can steer competitive tractors with John Deere precision farming products, you cannot use competitive products to steer a John Deere tractor without buying extra components. For that reason, Deere has been compared to being a Mac in a world of PCs (even though its market share more resembles that of PCs).

Ag equipment manufacturers say Deere's proprietary approach limits choices by forcing customers to buy Deere components. Deere says its approach offers advantages that customers ask for and expect. Here are some advantages that Deere says result from having an integrated system:

Ease of integration

“The big thing is integration,” says Matt Danner, senior product support specialist at John Deere Ag Management Solutions (AMS). “Everything fits.” New John Deere vehicles are wired at the factory to accept precision farming equipment, and most of the required components are built into the vehicle. “If you order a tractor out of our factory and later decide you want our AutoTrac automated steering system, the harness and plug are already in the cab,” Danner says. “All you need to do is buy the display, and in five minutes you are ready to go.”

Safety

“Having our own language ensures that no third party can interfere with or steer a John Deere tractor other than the person who owns that signal,” Danner says.

Signal accuracy

Danner says there is also an accuracy advantage to having an integrated system. “We are talking milliseconds of talk time, but it is a little bit better on an integrated system,” he says. He also claims Deere's signal is better. “The satellite network is dual frequency,” he says. “So we have L1 and L2 frequencies coming in to get that higher degree of signal accuracy.”

Diagnostics

“From a diagnostics standpoint, it is not a third-party system that has to be externally diagnosed,” Danner says. “It is an integrated piece of equipment that our dealers are already trained to diagnose and troubleshoot.”

Self-contained

All of the electronic steering components in a John Deere tractor are contained within the cab rather than fished out the back window, which keeps the operator safe and the harnesses away from debris, Danner explains.

Simplicity

“If I have a fleet and 10 operators out there in the field, it is simpler to match sets of equipment to those different operators,” Danner says. “Of if there is a problem, I can walk them through it knowing the system is one system versus five.”

Portability

Deere's components can be moved from vehicle to vehicle in about two minutes if the vehicles are equipped with Deere's GreenStar display and GPS receiver. If the vehicle is not a John Deere vehicle, the process takes two hours and requires the use of Deere's Spline Adapter Kit made for the vehicle make/model.

Complete system

“There is extra value in being able to integrate our testing and production with all of our precision guidance products so that our customers know that the products will work with their equipment,” Danner adds.