Thursday, June 7, 2012

Goliath vs. Goliath

So, Slate reports that Apple is getting ready to do battle with Google Maps. (Will Apple call their new App the "mApp?" Sorry, couldn't resist). We're entering another round in a war for our future spending that will cost billions of dollars. At least lives won't be lost in this one.

Let me get this straight:

  • Apple is competing with Google Maps.
  • Google is creating a Chrome Store. 
  • Amazon, Apple, and Google now are forming their ecosystems.
  • Facebook is interested in searches. How long can it be until Apple launches a search engine app? 
  • Google+ seems to have potential, and Google has the cash to dump into this thing for years until it's a profitable competitor to Facebook. 
  • Apple has already gotten into antitrust hot water over e-books, and Amazon is grinning from ear to ear. 
  • Amazon is aggressively pushing its MP3 store. As is Google pushing its Play store. 

I don't for a moment think Microsoft is completely out of any of these contests. It's overcoming its own diseconomies of scale and its entrenched mindsets, but it will be joining the party somehow someway.

What will be interesting is to see which one of the four Goliaths loses their edge first. Facebook's humbling IPO might teach it some helpful lessons. But the other three have gone some time without a humbling moment like Facebook's fumble, or Netflix's Quickster disaster last summer.

As consumers and citizens I think we have more than a rooting interest in this squabble. These companies have awesome power and awesome access over information we have given to them. Further, I don't know if we have antitrust laws that really can go after anticompetitive practices, and even if we do I don't know if our courts can move at the speed of digital change.

I think what we need is a disequilibrializing new competitor to enter the field, one too big to be plucked by one of the aforementioned.

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