Utterly fantastic article in Fast Company by Farhad Manjoo about the greatest tech showdown of our time, all likely going fully thermonuclear next year. With players like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon in the mix, this isn’t the minor leagues. Who winds up on top here controls the innovation economy moving forward, and there are sane arguments for each as the winner. The following excerpt sums up the vast power and influence these companies have over our technological lives:
To state this as clearly as possible: The four American companies that have come to define 21st-century information technology and entertainment are on the verge of war. Over the next two years, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will increasingly collide in the markets for mobile phones and tablets, mobile apps, social networking, and more. This competition will be intense. Each of the four has shown competitive excellence, strategic genius, and superb execution that have left the rest of the world in the dust. HP, for example, tried to take a run at Apple head-on, with its TouchPad, the product of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm. HP bailed out after an embarrassingly short 49-day run, and it cost CEO Léo Apotheker his job. Microsoft’s every move must be viewed as a reaction to the initiatives of these smarter, nimbler, and now, in the case of Apple, richer companies.
According to Nielsen, Android now powers about 40% of smartphones; 28% run Apple’s iOS. But here’s the twist: Android could command even 70% of the smartphone business without having a meaningful impact on Apple’s finances. Why? Because Apple makes a profit on iOS devices, while Google and many Android handset makers do not. This is part of a major strategic difference between Apple and the other members of the Fab Four. Apple doesn’t need a dominant market share to win. Everyone else does.
If you asked me to list the four biggest players in the tech space, this is the list I’d jot down. And the scary thing? I’m a customer of each. In Google and Facebook’s case, I am the product itself.
2012 will be anything but dull.
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