Benedict Evan’s latest post on Microsoft, IBM, and anti-trust is excellent. In it he argues (reminds us) that market power during one generation of tech, doesn’t necessarily guarantee market power in the next. And that anti-trust intervention isn’t actually responsible for Microsoft missing out on, among other things, mobile. The rules of engagement simply changed. The PC is now a smartphone accessory.
Here is an excerpt:
The tech industry loves to talk about ‘moats’ around a business – some mechanic of the product or market that forms a fundamental structural barrier to competition, so that just having a better product isn‘t enough to break in. But there are several ways that a moat can stop working. Sometimes the King orders you to fill in the moat and knock down the walls. This is the deus ex machina of state intervention – of anti-trust investigations and trials. But sometimes the river changes course, or the harbour silts up, or someone opens a new pass over the mountains, or the trade routes move, and the castle is still there and still impregnable but slowly stops being important. This is what happened to IBM and Microsoft. The competition isn’t another mainframe company or another PC operating system – it’s something that solves the same underlying user needs in very different ways, or creates new ones that matter more. The web didn’t bridge Microsoft’s moat – it went around, and made it irrelevant. Of course, this isn’t limited to tech – railway and ocean liner companies didn’t make the jump into airlines either. But those companies had a run of a century – IBM and Microsoft each only got 20 years.
For the full post, click here.