Forget everything you have heard about the rise of China or the decline of USA. That’s not the defining story of our times; instead, the first half of the 21st Century will be shaped by the rise of four new Empires – Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.
Apple started in 1977, Amazon in 1995, Google in 1998 and Facebook in 2004. Their fresh-faced gawky founders had innocent dreams – a computer us ordinary folks could use; an online bookshop; the Internet downloaded onto a computer and a simple software college kids could use to share pictures. And look at what they have spawned – four companies who together have a market value of close to 700 billion dollars, cash reserves of around 150 billion dollars and a disproportionate share of the brightest minds on this planet. And now these Empires are starting to clash, as empires have been wont to do throughout History. The battle fronts are not clear at this stage but they include hardware, software, communication, media, e-commerce, data … in short, the world as we know it.
In tablets Apple and Amazon are already sparring. In mobile operating systems and phones, Apple and Google are at each other’s throat. In e-commerce it is Amazon but Apple has a very strong presence and Google is getting into the act. Amazon has a huge head start in the cloud. But Apple and Google have the smarts and the infrastructure to construct a value proposition very quickly. And among these 800-lb Gorillas, sitting quietly for the moment, is Facebook. Not even a listed company yet, but estimated to be worth a 100 billion. They have close to a billion people on their side, and growing. They may well turn out to be the utility of the future, around which everything is built, and they could upset everyone’s applecart.
There’s a fascinating article in Fast Company on this battle – The Great Tech War of 2012. Could any other company trouble these four behemoths? Among the established players, the Microsoft’s and the big Telcos, I doubt it. But a bunch of fresh-faced gawky youngsters somewhere in the Valley, with innocent dreams, they could do it … its happened before.