Bonnie and I have talked a lot about the Everything Wars – where companies are battling for share, market, and presence in a variety of markets, some that you wouldn't expect. We've jokingly compared it to a giant monster movie, which is probably not too bad a metaphor,but I wanted to explore the issue a bit deeper.
The reason I explore it further is this is big for us progeeks, profans, and the rest of us – technology defines a lot of what we do in our lives, careers, and career interest. Fantasy sports is played online, websites deliver anime, etc. What happens in the Everything Wars happens to ALL of us.
So, let's take a look.
Level 1: The Technology
The core of the Everything Wars is three companies who are getting into a knock-down drag out fight that makes a pro-wrestling match look calm: Apple, Microsoft, and Google.
Each of these companies is involved in delivering a LOT of technology. A few years ago it was really only Apple-Microsoft, and even then they were carving out their own territories anyway. Google was off doing its own thing, search and web tools. No reason for a conflict . . .
Except for the fact that Google relies on people having access to what they provide and they were frankly dependent on the operating systems delivered by Apple and Microsoft. Apple and Microsoft can fight for territory, but it would take no effort for either of them to mess things up for Google – which Google knows. The OS and its software is the one barrier to getting to Google.
So Google of course made itself very, very useful – and has also been busy unsettling its rivals with releases like Android, Google Apps, and more. I don't think Google wants to dominate the market per se – it just wants to make sure NO one dominates the market – and thus Android, Chrome, and Chrome OS. Google wants to make sure they keep everyone hopping.
Peripheral to this is the iPhone, which quickly captured people's imaginations. This gave Apple a LOT of power and presence and prestige. You can guess both Microsoft and Google saw this and saw dollar signs and disturbing chances to have a counter-market sneaking up on them – Microsoft sees cheap portable apps, Google sees someone, yet again, controlling browser access.
Now take all of this, throw on the bad economy, and you've got the companies going at it like crazy. They've all had their own ways of inflitrating and growing markets, but now they're in each other's space, money is tight, the future is being defined fast – and they're going to fight.
What we have here is a battle of three technology titans to define what technology you use, what it runs, and how you get it. They can't back down – since they can't totally trust each other – and there's a lot of unknowns out there – and better to be in the fight than outside hoping it works out.
To put it simply, right now – these three companies are battling in ways that will define what and how we get technology.
Level 2a: Peripheral delivery technologies
While Google, Microsoft, and Apple stomp around battling, another issue comes up – peripheral technologies. These are technologies like Flash, Kindle, etc. that are either used by the Big Three or have specific niches.
Right now content is king, and if you have a delivery technology, then you've got a lot going for you – Flash borders on being a secondary operating system. Delivery sites for video and video delivery services are big business, bringing in issues of distribution, legal wrangling, and more.
Delivery technologies are caught up in a two way battle – the big boys are stomping around and could redefine the markets for them so they need to pick what they do carefully (or try and stay outside), and massive potential issues over content and content rights. We've see e-book wars heat up (which brought in Google to this level as well), issues of exclusive video deals, etc. Delivery technologies are in a way a hotter fight – more intimate and more up close and at times faster that the "Level 1" fights because they're very, very immediate.
At the same time, all it takes is some action by the Big 3 to change their courses for good or ill – Microsoft could buy Adobe, Kindle could move exclusively to iPhone, etc. These are hot and important companies, but they also can be affected by others.
Level 2b: Interactive technologies.
Next up in the fight, at about the same level as Delivery technologies are interactive technologies – the web-based tools for social media, purchases, etc. The survivors of many a dot-bomb era, and the hot social media trends, there's a lot of solid or at least not totally unstable companies providing interactive tools – Facebook, Paypal, etc. These are big, hot, and not going away.
These guys are where it's happening right now, and they are in an interesting position. Among themselves, they're sort of battling for presence, but as there's a lot of space for social media, it's not as hot and heavy as the Big Three. They're big enough that they're making deals with the Big Three for software (such as Facebook on X Box) and since they're big name presence, the Big three aren't going to mess with them – or want to.
This may be the calmest area of the Everything Wars. The one concern I have is their expanding presence can affect markets and may lead to unwanted attention or battles – which could probably be over content delivery (say, if there's "Facebook Theater" or "LinkedIn Library".
I think what keeps this area calmer than the others is social media is about interaction – Facebook may not be Twitter, but you can combine feeds, etc. There's more win-win here that's possible – I just don't know if everyone will appreciate that.
Level 3: Content
This is the final level – the content producers themselves. These are the people who often get forgotten in the everything wars: writers, artists, etc.
RRight now there's a TON of technology for content producers to use – video, social media, online comics, Kindle, e-books, etc. Right now if you can produce content there's so many ways to deliver it it's a geek paradise.
Except of course – the Everything Wars.
If you're delivering content- from an individual artist to a content company, you've got everyone battling above you. How do you distrubte your video? Are you big enough for your webcomics to get attention or will you put them on iPhone – or for Android? In short, how do you get stuff out to people.
If you're a truly big company, like say a Marvel Entertainment, you're fine, you've got the cash and recognition. Below that . . . it gets a bit harder. It's all shifting and changing and you have to plan strategies carefully. It's almost easier to be truly SMALL so you can stay nimble, but you risk getting lost in the shuffle.
Well, that's long-winded. Stay tuned for my next article on this – where the battle is going.
– Steven Savage