The market where internet technology companies Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook operate has permitted the merging of distribution platforms that are genuine accelerators for new and traditional companies. Together these four technology titans have a joint capitalization of $937bn and hold leadership positions in the segments with the highest strategic values in the digital market.
Apple is the only one from a business that precedes the advent of digital, the production of hardware and software, and it has still managed to create a position of absolute leadership in the distribution of digital services. It has done so by leveraging the extraordinary popularity of its products to make the integration of hardware and software its own point of superiority: Mac, iPhone and iPad.
Microsoft, for years the blue chip of the tech sector, is trying to regain a significant position in the market of mobile operating systems – which today is highly marginal. The launch of Windows 8 – a universal operating system for PCs and tablets – is the product whose success is linked to any likelihood for Microsoft being able to re-enter the most strategic and competitive market.
Google, starting from its position of total control in research and online advertising, has been able to become Apple’s main challenger in the mobile operating systems market. In 2005 it acquired an Android start-up which made it the first OS for activated devices with a 75% share reached in the last quarter of 2012. It succeeded with the same strategy that made Microsoft famous in the software market for PCs, allowing all mobile phone manufacturers to license the operating system whilst focusing on the construction of the hardware.
Facebook has reached one billion users on its social network. It is beginning to experiment with innovative revenue models to compete with Google in online advertising. It has survived its listing, managed in a way that was anything but brilliant, but it has the volume, talent and capital to become one of the leading players in the digital industry.
Amazon comes from afar, listed in ‘97, an example of how strategic vision combined with exceptional execution allows a company to remain a protagonist. It has done this in a market with a rate of innovation and survival of the Schumpeterian type, for over a decade. Amazon started as an e-commerce site for books and is now the leading electronic business platform for both physical and digital products. It was the first cloud computing operator and now also competes in tablet sales using a customized version of Google’s Android.
The strategic competition between these digital titans will shape the way in which consumers will access and share information – we will buy and sell physical & digital products and services globally. The information created by these platforms will enable the founding of new companies, and help those that exist already to develop through the exploitation of the opportunities that these platforms represent.
Today this game is played exclusively between American companies even if they only represent only 10% of users of the web and the US is only the third among the global mobile markets for the number of users. The US leadership is historically due to their Universities, able to attract talent from all over the world, as well as Venture Capital funds as well as the rest of the ecosystem, capable of transforming talent into successful innovative companies that in part become the new titans and in part feed-off the activity of strategic acquisitions the leadership of the “Titans of technology”.
It will be interesting to understand in which other elements and in what other ways they will decide to play this game.