Enterprise

Everything you need to know about the congressional big tech hearing

Why are Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google in trouble?

Published

on

Congressional hearings are uniquely American, and you’ve surely seen them in a movie or show. It’s often the crux, dramatizing a room filled with politicians, media, and the country. Everyone’s attention is glued to the protagonist, who sits in front of the committee and answers their hard-hitting questions. If you really want to see a classic, I’d recommend seeing The Aviator.

Coming back to the point, a similar hearing has grabbed the world’s attention. Often referred to as “big tech”, American internet giants Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are working hard to defend their enormous size, arguing that their dominating position in the market doesn’t stifle competition.

In simpler terms, “big tech” has a market capitalization of more than US$ 4.85 trillion. And, this gives them enough clout to discourage competition and continue their virtual monopoly. When companies become too big, the consequences can be radical since the government will find it harder to regulate them.

Data is the new oil

The American economy has witnessed similar situations before and there are precedents available to curtail a company’s influence. For instance, Standard Oil was among the world’s first and largest multinational companies. It started when oil was a fresh discovery and the world was slowly realizing the fuel’s potential. Officially started in 1870, it grew exponentially in the coming years by acquiring smaller companies, controlling market supply, and chasing maximum efficiency while ignoring antitrust regulations.

By 1890, Standard Oil controlled almost 90 percent of the refined oil business in the US. In the coming years, the company would restructure itself into a holding company that controls more than 40 smaller companies. While these smaller companies were separate entities, all profits went to one parent company. In turn, the parent ensured all the kids work in tandem to improve efficiency and control market dynamics.

Finally, in 1911, Standard Oil’s control came to an end after the US Justice Department prosecuted it via the Sherman Antitrust Act. Standard Oil was dismantled into smaller companies, again. But, they had an independent board of directors and each was left to fend for its own. It essentially meant that Standard Oil, as one entity, no longer existed and the market had dozens of autonomous companies. For consumers, this ensured healthy competition and innovation, while supply chains and associated trade partners were no longer dealing in a pseudo-mafia regime.

Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil of New York are predecessors of ExxonMobil, Standard Oil of Kentucky became Chevron, and South Penn Oil is known as Shell today. A similar breakup was enforced on telecom giant Bell Systems in 1982 when the parent AT&T, was split into regional companies. One of these sping-offs was Bell Atlantic, today called Verizon.

Big tech and its influence

Data is equivalent to oil or gold. The three together are fundamental pillars of the twenty-first century. Just like Standard Oil started out at the cusp oil discovery, Amazon and Google can be called the early pioneers of the consumer internet.

Equipped with instant connectivity, Amazon created online shopping as we know it today. The internet becomes a stressful place without Google helping us discover basic information. Facebook is quite literally our personal life and everyone around you uses it.

Lastly, Apple is the only significant hardware maker here, but it has surprisingly more control over software thanks to its closed eco-system. These companies are very similar to Standard Oil and can pose a serious threat to encouraging competition. Free market principles also go out the window when someone has majority control.

Apple and its greed for more

The Cupertino-based giant revolutionized music playback thanks to the iPod and iTunes. When Apple sold you the iPod, it made a profit. But you need music to utilize your purchase. So, you buy a track from iTunes, that’s also controlled by Apple. Ultimately, you end up paying more and more to the same company. Thankfully, the system is partially restricted and you can sideload MP3 files, but it’s a cumbersome and discouraging process.

Coming to 2020, apps are everywhere. Apple’s App Store comes pre-installed on iOS devices shipped in the last decade. Apple takes a 30 percent cut on whatever you sell via the App Store. Whether it’s an app or an in-app purchase, Apple will get its share of the revenue. Apple says the store acts as a perfect marketplace for developers as well as users. But, how can a newly started developer or company afford to give away 30 percent of its revenue to Apple as a “service charge?”

Keep in mind, this “big tech” has more than US$ 190 billion in cash. Spotify has publicly called-out Apple for this practice numerous times because it sells monthly streaming plans on its app and can’t afford to part a huge chunk of the payment to Apple. Instead of using Apple’s payment system, it manages its own subscription to save “Apple tax”, an informal slang for Apple’s revenue cut. Even Netflix follows a similar approach. The point is, bigger companies are capable of bypassing Apple’s ecosystem lock, albeit with considerable expenses. Then how can new competition come up from scratch?

It’s practically a monopoly because the developer has two options — take it or leave it. Now, if you’re in the market to sell your app, all iOS devices are out of scope if you don’t adhere to Apple’s demands. And, if you skip the App Store, you’re missing out on all the potential revenue. If you agree with Apple, by an optimistic outlook, you’ll at least get 70 percent of something as revenue? This is the basic working of a monopoly.

The operating system market is a duopoly controlled by Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. While third-party app stores like Amazon App Store, AppGallery, and more exist, ask yourself when was the last time you downloaded something off them?

In Apple’s defense, the company feels it should be able to collect its 30 percent share because it created the current ecosystem. With the launch of the iPhone, the company created a virtual marketplace out of nothing. The company invested in building an ecosystem that has stood the test of time and brings both, the user as well as developer, on the same page.

The company announced earlier this year that it has paid US$ 155 billion to developers since 2008. That’s a lot of money. There’s no denying that Apple kickstarted the “app as a product” philosophy, creating a brand new arena in the digital age. But is it’s control justified after a decade?

Apple has always been conservative about its ecosystem, but it’s efforts to accomplish that are often far-fetched. Recently, the company barred Xbox Gamepass on iOS devices because it “it can’t review every game” that’s being offered by Microsoft. Going by this logic, Apple should also screen or review every show or album that debuts on OTT (over the top) players like Netflix, Prime Video, Spotify, and more.

It’s clear that Apple wants to defend its Apple Arcade subscription service and doesn’t want Microsoft to steal the show with Project xCloud. This means that Xbox Gamepass will be available on Android only. If Apple can strong-arm a giant like Microsoft, isn’t it very obvious that smaller players stand no chance against the brand?

Amazon and its influence on customers

Starting out with just books, today the site has millions of products listed, ranging from a unique screw to a full-fledged air conditioner. What started out as an online marketplace has grown into a tech giant that has dominance in cloud computing, voice assistants, and even video streaming.

Critics say Amazon has frequently used its funding to undercut the competition. It took some losses in the short-term by trying to retain users. Once the user was accustomed to Amazon, a process that lets them avoid visits to a store, the loss turned into profit. With a yearly Prime subscription, you’d get free delivery on the smallest of products. Eventually, the user has recovered its Prime subscription fee in terms of convenience and Amazon has processed more orders than ever.

This model ensured that Amazon has an edge over everyone else. The site closely monitors your movement on the site and can intelligently suggest new products to purchase. The more one buys, the more Amazon earns. And, so do the sellers. This seems like a fair game.

But then, sellers realized Amazon has started recognizing categories that can be directly dominated. The user data they collect shows them precisely how much demand a product has, the price vs sales comparisons, and more. It leveraged this rich and unique data to launch its own product brand called Amazon Basics. If you’d normally buy a USB-C wire for US$ 10, Amazon Basics provided that for a lesser price. And, the Amazon tag garnered trust, luring the buyer away from third-party sellers to Amazon’s in-house accounting.

Now, sellers realized that Amazon used its internal sales data to indirectly push out the competition. Amazon follows a similar strategy in other markets like India. Obviously, a seller can try to sell directly via their own platform using simpler tools like Shopify, but will that match the reachability of Amazon? Can any individual seller match Amazon’s marketing and brand recognition?

The company grew as an e-commerce website but is involved in much more than selling books today, the prime reason why it’s one of the “big tech.” The marketplace’s dominant position helped it start brand new investment streams like Kindle hardware, Alexa speakers, and AWS cloud computing. The e-commerce model had worked very well and investors were fine with the company diversifying, even if it meant losing some projects like the Fire Phone.

Today, the company is bigger than physical establishments like Walmart. It’s going up against eBay, Flipkart, Lazada, AliExpress, and Rakuten in the e-commerce space. AWS is challenging Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, as well as Alibaba Cloud. Alexa is fighting against Google Assitant, Siri, and Cortana. And lastly, Prime subscription is taking on Netflix and Spotify in one go.

What’s common?

In this article, the most frequently mentioned companies are Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Facebook sits in an entirely different vertical, filled with its own unique challenges. However, if you’re trying to do something on the internet, you’ll end up using one of their technology or platform in some way or the other.

And that’s the whole point of the “Big Tech” debate. These companies have grown too much, too quickly. They dominate the publicly known internet and have barely left any space for newcomers. Even if someone dares to do the unthinkable, they’ll be either acquired or pushed into infinite losses.


This is Part 1 of the series. Read Facebook and Google’s involvement in Part 2.

Enterprise

Samsung is increasing the prices of its chipsets

Others have already accepted

Published

on

Shortages are still plaguing the tech industry. Because of various lockdowns throughout the past few years, new devices haven’t met the surge of demand from consumers. Besides not delivering devices, companies also deal with a loss in profit. Inevitably, that lost profit would rear its head in another way. Samsung, a major player in the chipmaking industry, has decided to up its chipset prices.

First reported by Bloomberg, Samsung is renegotiating the prices of its chipsets. If successful, the company’s clients will reportedly pay between 15 to 20 percent more to get their components. Additionally, chips made on legacy nodes will likely pay more in the end.

According to the report, some clients, currently unnamed, have already agreed to the price increase. Others are still in the process of negotiations. Though it’s certainly more expensive, the current forecast speculates that most clients will likely take the new deal. For one, other companies have already upped their prices as well. Samsung isn’t alone. However, the South Korean company has an advantage: more high-tech machines resulting in better chips and faster production.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. While some clients have already accepted, there is no indication as to who will ultimately shoulder the brunt of the price increase. Will this mean more expensive devices in the future, or will companies graciously take a lesser margin of profit?

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S22+ review: Love at first touch

Continue Reading

Enterprise

Qualcomm unveils its plans for Wi-Fi 7

Can reach up to 33Gbps speeds

Published

on

The transition from 5G to 6G shouldn’t be the only thing we’re excited for. Companies are also working on huge improvements for Wi-Fi. Because of the ongoing popularity of 5G, not a lot of the spotlight was shone on the current Wi-Fi 6 and 6E standards. However, home internet is just as important. Now, the future wants to make things even faster. Qualcomm has announced the next chips to introduce Wi-Fi 7.

Recently, the company officially revealed the Wi-Fi 7 Networking Pro Series. The lineup will eventually don the future of routers for a variety of environments including home and enterprise use. According to Qualcomm, the chips will reach speeds of up to 33Gbps with stabler connections and lesser interference. They will support 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz channels.

For reference, Wi-Fi 6 and 6E can reach only up to 9.6Gbps speeds. Though the jump is certainly dramatic, reaching higher speeds is crucial in today’s time when 4K streaming is quickly becoming a norm.

Of course, patience is key. Amid Qualcomm’s announcement, Wi-Fi 7 isn’t exactly here yet. Both networks and router makers haven’t released any products for the standard. However, some sources, like MediaTek, are currently predicting 2023 as a target date for the new standard’s launch in some capacity.

SEE ALSO: MediaTek hosts world’s first demo of Wi-Fi 7

Continue Reading

Enterprise

Samsung announces UFS 4.0

Coming to smartphones and smart cars

Published

on

While most consumers focus on the number of gigabytes a smartphone has, a lesser known specification is quietly improving a user’s experience. If you’ve owned any recent Samsung phone, you might have noticed “UFS 3.1” in the specs. Universal Flash Storage helps the smartphone process data faster. Now, Samsung has launched an improved version of the standard: UFS 4.0.

Announced recently, the new standard promises an impressive improvement from the current one. UFS 4.0 reportedly reaches up to 23.2Gbps per lane, double the speeds of UFS 3.1. While the latter finds its home in the Galaxy S22 series, the former will try to find its way into automotive and VR applications.

Using Samsung’s 7th-generation V-NAND technology, the standard can deliver sequential read speed of up to 4200MB/s and write speeds of up to 2800MB/s. Storages with the standard will also come in various capacities up to 1TB.

Samsung will produce the storage starting the third quarter of this year. With the timing down right, the standard will likely make its debut in upcoming smartphones from the company. Besides that, the company is also linking up with other companies around the globe for future partnerships with the standard. It aims to create a global ecosystem helped by the new standard.

SEE ALSO: Samsung is building phone batteries inspired by cars

Continue Reading

Trending