Four leading U.S. tech companies each possess unique characteristics that cannot easily be duplicated by rivals, making them likely to dominate their markets for the long term, serial entrepreneur and New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway asserts in a new book. These companies are: e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN); social networking leader Facebook Inc. (FB); Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL); and computer and smartphone maker Apple Inc. (AAPL). A summary of Galloway's observations follows, based on his interview with Barron's.
Amazon the Destroyer
Amazon is "going everywhere and swallowing industries whole," Galloway says in a Barron's video, rating Amazon as a standout. "When they [the other three tech giants] bump up against Amazon, they're losing." Amazon's share of product-led searches, he says, was 55% in 2016, up from 44% in 2015. "Some people would argue that Amazon is a search engine with a warehouse attached. It's beating Google in search."
"Amazon has leapfrogged Apple in terms of voice," Galloway notes, comparing its Alexa to Apple's Siri. He also asserts that Amazon's Echo speakers are far more innovative than the Apple Watch. Amazon's video streaming vaulted from seventh place in 2015 to third place in 2016, threatening both Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and Apple iTunes. Amazon's media group is growing advertising revenue faster than Facebook or Google, with $1.5 billion collected in 2016. He adds that the most profitable business in tech is the cloud, and Amazon is number one.
Amazon the Storyteller
Despite meager profits, Amazon's stock keeps rising. To Galloway, Amazon's true core competency is storytelling. "They have never got the markets used to the crack cocaine of profits," he said. Instead, they spin stories about vision and future growth, realizing that investors hooked on earnings will suffer nasty withdrawals if profits ever stumble.
One result: "we've never seen a company with access to capital this cheap in the history of modern business." Indeed, Galloway continues, "Amazon can now borrow at a lower rate than China."
Amazon Prime, a buyer loyalty program and video streaming service, has 60% of U.S. households as members, per Galloway. He thinks Amazon will target Netflix, perhaps by purchasing one or more TV networks. This would win advertising dollars, and perhaps induce Prime members to buy yet more merchandise. The other three tech giants, he notes, also are potential entrants to the TV market. (For more, see also: How Amazon, Facebook May Crush the TV Networks.)
Most Successful Thing In Human History
That's how Galloway views Facebook: the world has 1.3 billion self-identified Catholics, 1.4 billion Chinese, and 2 billion Facebook users. He views Instagram as the best tech acquisition during the past 20 years, with Facebook's $1 billion outlay now worth between $60 billion and $150 billion.
Modern Man's God
Google has become that, per Galloway, by answering every imaginable question on every subject at the press of a key. The widespread, intense trust placed in Google search is almost worshipful. On another front, Alphabet has a foothold in video through YouTube. This positions it to profit from the deep decline of advertiser-supported broadcast TV, whose "last firewall" is sports, but with aging viewers, he indicates.
Objects of Desire
Apple's products signal status, wealth, creativity, intelligence, and even desirability as a lover or mate, Galloway argues. "Its price premium is irrational, but we're willing to pay a lot of money to seem more attractive to other people," he says.
He draws parallels with education, where prices rise faster than inflation despite lagging innovation, a situation "ripe for disruption." Per Apple's motto of "Think Different," Galloway suggests that they "start the largest creatively driven low-cost university in the world."
The Worm Has Turned
That's how Galloway characterizes the recent shift of public and government opinion against the tech giants. The political left is angry about job losses and foreign meddling in U.S. elections, while the right critiques the leftward tilt of these companies.
Facebook, he says, has become an influential media company, but shirks appropriate responsibilities. To avoid long-term decline, he warns, they must make full disclosures about the Russia controversy, and take concrete steps against being co-opted again. He sees echoes of Martha Stewart, who earned a pittance from insider trading, then got prison time mainly for her denials.
He finds that European regulators are eager to disrupt the four U.S. tech giants, and expects any one of them to be fined $10 billion or more in the next 12 months. Viewing antitrust action as likely against Amazon, he suggests a preemptive spinoff of cloud computing unit Amazon Web Services. (For more, see also: 5 Big Tech Stocks' Largest Threat May Be Uncle Sam.)