Although the five major U.S. technology companies, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, have different core businesses, they often collide with each other in different fields. With Apple's latest attempt to enter the search business, it indicates that the core field competition among technology giants is intensifying.
Since 2010, the social media giant Facebook has tried to develop a better search engine. With the advantages brought by massive social information resources, it has become the world's second largest search engine after Google, and has gained substantial search advertising revenue. And Google did not sit still, the company has tried to launch a social network to challenge Facebook, until five years ago gave up this idea.
Now, Apple is preparing to try to provide search services. The smartphone manufacturer is crawling more networks to build search indexes, putting some of its search results in front of iPhone users, and hiring engineers to speed up this long and expensive endeavor.
The prospect of a comeback in the Internet search war raises an interesting question: Why don’t the largest US technology companies have more competition in the core market that defines them? Can regulators push them to compete more openly?
The answer to the first question is that leading consumer technology companies have become the most valuable companies in the world without having to fight each other too much. Another reason is that head-on attacks are expensive, and most of them end in failure. For example, Microsoft invested billions of dollars in search and smartphones, but eventually abandoned these two businesses. This shows that if you want to defeat an already entrenched competitor in an area where the opponent is dominant, you will often fail.
On the contrary, leading companies can act as partners and customers, supporting each other's core platforms. Amazon has long been one of the largest buyers of Google ads, and Facebook and Apple have formed an important symbiotic relationship in the early days of smartphones. After years of fierce fighting, Microsoft and Google reconciled a few years ago and are always looking for common interests.
However, this has not stopped them from competing in other areas, especially in newer markets. Both Microsoft and Google are focusing on productivity applications, and this huge cloud computing business has become a new leader in the fierce competition between these two companies and Amazon.
Apple's interest in search shows that these technology companies are beginning to penetrate each other's core markets more deeply, and their scale and ambitions have reached the point of involuntary conflict. All of these are driven by a common demand, which is to dominate the next generation of large-scale computing platforms.
Apple and Facebook have also been on the path of conflict. When Facebook announced plans for its cloud gaming service this week, it was claiming the right to one of the most popular activities on smartphones. It is worth noting that the company stated that this new service will not be immediately available on Apple's devices and accused the latter of "controlling a very valuable resource."
At the same time, one of Amazon’s fastest-growing businesses is advertising, because whenever someone starts looking for a product to buy online, it will compete with Google for a better starting point.
Regulators can help push things forward faster. The US government's antitrust complaint against Google last week directly points to the agreement it reached with Apple, which put Google's search engine into the iPhone. Apple speeds up its search efforts to hedge the risk of losing the deal, which is crucial. Where other companies have failed, Apple also has a better chance to succeed against Google.
Three things make it particularly difficult to compete with Google in the search field, including brand, eyeballs and data. And Apple has its own advantages in these three aspects.
Apple already has a well-known brand Siri in this field, and Apple's name itself has also extended to the service field. As for the eyeball, keeping the default location on its device as its own search engine will immediately bring a large number of users to it and avoid what the U.S. Department of Justice says will give Google an unfair advantage. Starting with the latest version of iOS, Apple will collect data from billions of queries to help it improve the relevance of feedback results.
Google still has a fourth advantage in the search field, but this may become a bigger stumbling block, at least for Apple shareholders, that is, monetization. Each search generates more advertising revenue than any other company, and Google has been able to send huge amounts of cash to many companies that put its services in a prominent position, reaching $30 billion last year.
Google also has a strong incentive to maintain the payment to Apple at a sufficiently high level to prevent the iPhone manufacturer itself from making efforts to enter the search field. But as Apple’s keen interest in search shows, things may finally start to change.