Tech’s Next Battle: The Frightful Five vs. Lawmakers

DATE: 04/01/2017
RETRIEVED: 04/01/2017

In the technology industry, the sharks have never long been safe from the minnows. Over much of the last 40 years, the biggest players in tech — from IBM to Hewlett-Packard to Cisco to Yahoo — were eventually outmaneuvered by start-ups that came out of nowhere.

The dynamic is so dependable that it is often taken to be a kind of axiom. To grow large in this business is also to grow slow, blind and dumb, to become closed off from the very sources of innovation that turned you into a shark in the first place.

Then, in the last half decade, something strange happened: The sharks began to get bigger and smarter. Nearly a year ago, I argued that we were witnessing a new era in the tech business, one that is typified less by the storied start-up in a garage than by a posse I like to call the Frightful Five: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

Together the Five compose a new superclass of American corporate might. For much of last year, their further rise and domination over the rest of the global economy looked not just plausible, but also maybe even probable.
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In 2017, much the same story remains, but there is a new wrinkle: The world’s governments are newly motivated to take on the tech giants. In the United States, Europe, Asia and South America, the Five find themselves increasingly arrayed against legal and regulatory powers, and often even against popular will.


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