The War Among Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple

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The War Among Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple

November 03, 201111:10 AM
Listen to the Story
Fresh Air from WHYY
31 min 57 sec
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Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are expanding rapidly into markets like media, TV, movies, finance, advertising, retail and mobile phones. Stephanie d'Otreppe/NPR
In the old days, Amazon sold books, Google was a search engine, Facebook was a social network and Apple sold computers. But that's not the case anymore.
Google and Apple now sell phones. Amazon has gotten into the server business. Apple sells music. Facebook and Amazon provide online payment services. And that's just the beginning. "We see them getting into the media business, TV, movies, books — but we also see them getting into the banking industry ... becoming part of the communications infrastructure ... and part of [other] transactions," says tech writer Farhad Manjoo. "They're branching out into all kinds of products that aren't only aimed at each other ... but in many ways, these four companies are trying to disrupt every other business in the economy." Manjoo's recent piece in Fast Company outlines how Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are competing with each other — and other companies — in markets for mobile phones, apps, social networking, retailing, advertising, finance and more. On Thursday's Fresh Air, Manjoo explains how the four giants are heading in new directions — and encroaching on each other's territory — as they each try to expand their customer base. "They're making bigger changes to our daily lives, and they are affecting more parts of the economy than something as huge as the oil industry," he says. "It's an exciting time to be watching the industry. ... We're in a moment of transition, and it will change in a big way over the next two years, which is exciting — but it will also affect our lives in ways we haven't seen." Manjoo is a staff writer for Slate. He has also written for Fast Company and Wired News. He is the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. Enlarge imagei

Farhad Manjoo is the technology columnist for Slate.
Helen Bailey/Courtesy of the guest

Farhad Manjoo is the technology columnist for Slate.
Helen Bailey/Courtesy of the guest
Interview Highlights
On why Google and Amazon particularly want to capture the phone market "Because these [mobile] devices are tied to an individual, whatever you do on those devices sends back data. All of that data is being collected, and in various ways is being mined and analyzed to try to figure out who you are and what you want. Some of this is somewhat sinister. They're trying to create a better profile of you to create better ads, to create ads that are targeted to you so you'll buy stuff. Other uses of this data are less sinister, and you might even think of it as beneficial. One of the technologies that Google [uses is an] anonymous tracker [that tracks] where its Android phones go. ... Google can collect all of that information from all the Android phones, and it can create a very accurate representation of traffic patterns in a city. If I tell you, 'Google is tracking where you go,' that might sound very bad and you might not want them to know where you're going.' But if I tell you they're tracking everyone and you can go to work 20 minutes faster because you saw a traffic jam on your phone, you might be more amenable to that." On Amazon's business model

"They're trying to create a device that sells as well as the iPad and can prove to be a very popular rival to the iPad. But the thing they have done that is very smart is that they've made their device less...
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