With many large players having planted stakes in the digital ground, one may wonder if any of them can eventually exist as a monopoly. But because each of the largest companies is fighting against the others, a certain equilibrium may have been realized that leaves no room for any single player to control all areas.
Before going any further on this assumption, it helps to explain who I see as the biggest players:
When looking at it, it becomes increasingly clear that market forces will have a more substantial impact on the leader’s abilities to remain at the top than any kind of government actions possibly could. Within each portion of the market, one may have some level of control but that control is only ephemeral and subject to the whim of the consumer. Let’s not forget that outside of the connectivity market, none of the players at the top had a strong position in that space 15 years ago. A look back on a similar chart would have given us a picture that looks more like:
In 15 years, every major player at the top has been displaced. If history can teach us anything, it is that incumbents are often disrupted by newcomers.
Each of today’s silo owner aims to break through through to another silo, attempting to leverage its dominant position on one side of the equation to get a large stake into another one. This leads to interesting fights:
What is most fascinating about this pattern is that there is a certain restlessness to each of the players. The net result is that while each of the company could be considered as a massive controlling group, the relative efforts they are expanding to entering new marketplaces presents them as upstarts in their new arena.
One of the most often criticized tool of the monopolist is the concept of tying, whereas customers are required to buy or use a product or service they do not want as a condition to use one that they do want. While this would be a powerful tool, outside of the in-app payment systems (where Amazon, Google, and Facebook could all be considered guilty), we are not seeing those patterns emerge. In fact, it is fairly interesting to see that every major player is treating its new offering almost as a new separate business entity.
When looking at the landscape, it would be unfair to treat any effort (no matter how successful) as an attempt at monopoly power. A more accurate view could be that of the corporation as investment vehicle. When a company like Apple launches a new effort aimed at the living room, instead of looking at it through a lens of an attempt at control, one may want to look at it through the lens of business creation. The people in the TV business are probably different than the people in the iphone business, or the ones in the in-app payment ones.
Such a view would more closely align judgment of companies with the kind of judgement one would perform on a venture investors: attempts at moving money around multiple offerings that center on a particular thesis. Today, VCs and angel investors are largely successful because they work on spreading their money and attention around companies that are similar in nature and can realize growth through partnership in a network. Tomorrow’s corporation will reflect a similar model, whereas one business may benefit from association with another. And that is not a monopoly; it’s proper governance in the best interest of the shareholders.
© Tristan Louis 1994-present Some rights reserved.