Is Apple Just the Beginning? Tech Giants – the False Prophets of the Digital Age
1976, 1998, 2004 – those are the years when Apple, Google, and Facebook were launched. The Big 3. And since then, they have introduced to the world amazing products and services, disrupting the way we connect, interact, and work. It is easy to see how we have become enamored with their success and have concluded that the Big 3 are the undisputed prophets of the digital age.
Yet, times are changing. Take Apple for instance. Even the billionaire Facebook early investor and co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, has already come out last week saying that “the age of Apple is over”. But isn’t there something more to it than that?
When was it the last time they released a novel or disruptive product?
The iPhone, the quintessential can’t-do-without smart phone (does anyone even say that anymore?) is losing its luster as Apple has dipped in its annual profits in 2016 due to poor iPhone sales for the first time ever. Google X has its moonshot projects, but nothing close to a commercial stage. Some might point to Waymo, Google X’s autopilot project, but according to Wired, it is at best halfway ready for a commercial launch. And Facebook is set to deliver more of the same in the next 5 years at least. All admirable, but alas, far from anything near that they have accomplished to date.
One could rightly mention recent launches like the Apple Watch and Facebook Live as examples of innovation. True. But they were largely reactions to the FitBit wearable, and Periscope or even Snapchat. Regardless, it is tough not to see how tech giants like Apple has failed to innovate as fast as before.
Innovation can be bought
According to a Moody’s Investors Service report, the top 5 non-financial companies with the most cash are in tech and hold approximately $500 billion, including Apple which has $216 billion cash on hand; Google at $73 billion; and Facebook at $26 billion. With that much money lying around you can either spend it on R&D or just buy innovation. But does innovation come with a price tag?
Apparently, it does.
We are all familiar with the widely publicized acquisitions, such as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Instagram, or Google’s Nest and Apple’s Beats Electronics. But in actuality, to date the Big 3 have made hundreds of acquisitions of SMBs and startups, integrating them into the Big 3’s own platforms to enhance their own products and service offerings.
Effectively, the Big 3 act more like venture capitalists or private equity firms rather than digital innovators. But in order to keep up with changes in technology, they must buy innovation rather than invent it themselves. In the end, rather than leading innovation, the Big 3 have simply copied it or bought it outright.
When looking to the future, look from the ground up
In 2016, the hot technology all revolved around AI, machine learning, augmented reality and VR. But it was not the Big 3 that introduced them. They were created and developed by startups and SMBs. Startups like Magic Leap and ViSenze lead innovation and create disruption. So if you want to know what will happen next in the near future, don’t look towards the Big 3, false prophets of the digital age, we must look from the ground up – towards startups.