Re-thinking Winners and Losers In Tech

on May 5, 2013

There are narratives that circle the technology industry that are wearing out their welcome. The primary one, and the one where I wish more intelligent heads would prevail, is the narrative that there can only be one winner in this industry. Namely that for Google’s ecosystem to win, means that all the others must fail. Or that for Microsoft’s ecosystem to win it means that Apple’s and Google’s needs to lose. And of course that for Apple to win, Google and Microsoft need to lose.

As far as I can tell these narratives are rooted not only a limited view of the technology industy’s history but also a very short-sighted one. It seems as though since Microsoft’s Windows platform dominated much of computing for several decades, that it must mean that it is inevitable that this domination repeat itself. It seems the expectation from many is that we are simply waiting to see which platform wins. More specifically, which platform will dominate computing market share the way Microsoft did in the past. Let me explain why this is not going to happen.

Big Consumer Markets

The reason I say the one platform to rule them all narrative is deeply flawed is because when Microsoft dominated computing, the market was very small from a global standpoint. The market for PCs was so very small compared to the market for smartphones for example. Small markets favor fewer players who typically dominate the segment.

The global consumer market for technology is massive. Massive global consumer markets can sustain many players, competing for segments of markets, and all making money. Look at how many automobile companies the global consumer market can sustain. Look at how many clothing companies, types of aspirin, types of cereal, etc., the market can sustain. Believing that for Google to win Apple has to lose–or vice-versa–is like believing that for Pepsi to win Coca-Cola has to lose, for Burger King to win McDonald’s has to lose, or for BMW to win Mercedes-Benz has to lose. We all know how silly that sounds and that is the point.

Interestingly, even though a few major conglomerates own many of the underlying products that make up the variety I mention, its success often transcends the product, or company, itself but is wrapped into a larger experience. This larger experience is bound to something central which is key to that companies sustainability in the global consumer market–their brand.

Brands Rule the World

When you look at the global consumer market, you simply will not find a company succeeding and competing on the basis of a product who does not have a strong brand. A strong brand stands out. It is recognizable. It leads to continually high customer satisfaction, loyalty and trust. A strong brand continually re-creates an enjoyable and memorable experience for its customers.

When a company builds a brand that the global consumer market considers valuable, it puts itself in lasting position. Nike, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Coke and Pepsi, McDonald’s, etc., are not in danger of going out of business any time soon. To predict their demise, is as ridiculous as predicting the demise of the strong global consumer brands in the technology industry.

A strong brand is not just sustainable it is also versatile. Brands compete well in the markets they play but a strong brand also allows a company the ability to compete in new markets with new products. A strong brand is one of the strongest, most defensible assets any company has. It is one of the foundational things that often gets overlooked in many analysis.

Its time to re-think winners and losers in the technology industry. Its time to take a more holistic look at who is well positioned to still exist in 20-30-50 or even 100 years. A strong brand today means a strong brand tomorrow. Products come and go, but brands can stand the test of time.