Sizing Up The Big Beasts


It seems increasingly obvious to me that the story of the next ten years of consumer-facing online businesses is going to be a straight shoot-out between four companies:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Apple
  • Amazon

Now some of you – my older readers in particular – may be shouting at this point: “What about Microsoft Gerard?”

I’ve already ruled Microsoft out when it comes to the consumer market. I can see them re-inventing the company as a cloud provider for business under new CEO Satya Nadella but they’re just too far behind with the consumer segment in my opinion. That ship has sailed.

I’m going to look at each one of the big four above in detail in separate future posts  but, to begin with, I want to try out a little thought experiment: what does each company want?

I’m trying to think here not about what they necessarily do right now but what they ultimately want. Here are the first thoughts that came to mind in answer to that question:

What does Google want?

Google wants to know everything about the world. It wants all that information gathered together so it can unleash its algorithms on it. Google is a machine-learning company masquerading as an advertising company.

What does Facebook want?

Facebook wants to know everything about you and your relationship with people close to you so it can unleash its algorithms on that data.

What does Apple want?

Apple wants to make every single high-end appliance you use. The watch and the rumored car are just the tip of the iceberg. Apple wants to to own the entire space at the upper income levels.

What does Amazon want?

Amazon wants you to make every single one of your purchases through them. It doesn’t care whether those purchases are physical or virtual. It wants to be the only shop you ever use.

What do those answers tell me straightaway? A couple of things: Google’s real enemy is Facebook and Apple’s real enemy is Amazon.

There’s been a lot of recent skirmishes on other fronts e.g. Google and Apple squabbling over maps or mobile operating systems but I think that’s just a sideshow compared to the real battles to come.

And when I squint my eyes and look at all four to see who’s in the weakest position, my gut tells me Google has a lot more to be worried about than the others.

Stick around and I’ll go through the reasons why I think that’s the case but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that initial breakdown in the comments below. Let’s get the conversation started!


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