20 Jan Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future
There’s a little parlor game that people in Silicon Valley like to play. Let’s call it, Who’s Losing?
There are currently four undisputed rulers of the consumer technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, now a unit of a parent company called Alphabet. And there’s one more, Microsoft, whose influence once looked on the wane, but which is now rebounding.
So which of these five is losing? A year ago, it was Google that looked to be in a tough spot as its ad business appeared more vulnerable to Facebook’s rise. Now, Google is looking up, and it’s Apple, hit by rising worries about a slowdown in iPhone sales, that may be headed for some pain. Over the next couple of weeks, as these companies issue earnings that show how they finished 2015, the state of play may shift once more.
But don’t expect it to shift much. Asking “who’s losing?” misses a larger truth about how thoroughly Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft now lord over all that happens in tech.
Who’s really losing? In the larger picture, none of them — not in comparison with the rest of the tech industry, the rest of the economy and certainly not in the influence each of them holds over our lives.
Tech people like to picture their industry as a roiling sea of disruption, in which every winner is vulnerable to surprise attack from some novel, as-yet-unimagined foe. “Someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us,” Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s executive chairman, is fond of saying.
But for much of the last half-decade, most of these five giants have enjoyed a remarkable reprieve from the boogeymen in the garage. And you can bet on them continuing to win. So I’m coining them the Frightful Five.
It’s not just because I’m a Tarantino fan. By just about every measure worth collecting, these five American consumer technology companies are getting larger, more entrenched in their own sectors, more powerful in new sectors and better insulated against surprising competition from upstarts.