Most of those working in technology in the construction industry recognize a big trend that has taken place in the past several years: the technology giants are getting bigger, mostly driven by M&A (merger and acquisition) activity. Some new startups come onto the scene, with big promises to shake up the market, but after a few years, even those often come to the fate of an acquisition.
Are young firms getting off the ground, or are tech giants swallowing them up before they have a chance to spread their wings and contribute to the market by adding competition and innovation? An editorial from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat representing Massachusetts who plans to run for president in 2020, suggests companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are stifling innovation in the tech industry and proposes the government step in.
Warren cites the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s as an example of how the Feds can promote competitive markets by breaking up tech giants. She says today’s large technology companies have too much power, and she cites two strategies these companies typically use to limit competition: mergers and using proprietary marketplaces.
For the construction industry, we can add some other big names to the list such as: Trimble, Oracle, and Autodesk, just to name a few—all of which have made big moves to acquire other technology leaders in the space.
Many other government officials are also talking about this issue. For instance, last summer, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat representing Virginia, wrote a whitepaper outlining 20 potential policy proposals for regulating social media and tech firms. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was even brought before Congress last April to “answer” for his company’s part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Though Zuckerberg was essentially sent away with a scolding and a warning, the stage is set for something big to happen where big tech firms are involved.
If the big dogs in the industry are indeed snuffing out the up-and-comers, then they do not have to compete to offer best-in-class data privacy and security; they don’t even necessarily need to innovate to survive. Could the answer be breaking them apart? Warren offers a glimpse into what this could look like. First, she says there could be legislation prohibiting large tech platforms from owning both a platform utility and a participant on that platform. Second, she says the government could “unwind” anti-competitive tech mergers.
While companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google provide important services, the industry is now encroaching on new territory. Never before have tech companies had so much control over so much data, and while large tech companies by default are not bad, the way forward may require some forced responsibility, so to speak. If history acts as a guide, legislation may be necessary to get back to a tech landscape in which startup companies have a shot at bringing their unique and valuable solutions to market.
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