Power and Behavior: Amazon, Apple, eBay, Google, and Microsoft

August 11, 2012

I like the yip yap about choice. Search means Google for most of the 99 percent who know about online. Amazon means books. Sure, there is push back from publishers and Barnes & Nobile, but Amazon is the game. Too bad about the company’s inability to control its costs as it searches for world domination. eBay has been hanging in there. There is the wonderful PayPal service. I pay and maybe the Account information displays what I did. Well, maybe not. And there is adorable Microsoft. The IBM to the generations of computer users born after 1980.

Let’s take a quick look at the possible correlations between power and behavior.

Fights are simplified when there is one antagonist and one protagonist. Child-like in their simplicity.

First, navigate to the PCMag.com, a publication which does fewer product reviews and more “I wanna be a pundit” writing than when I worked at Ziff Communications, the outfit which owned the original PC Magazine. The story is “Microsoft’s Massive Metro Mistake.” The main idea is that Microsoft did not do a trademark search. The more interesting information in the write up is the allegation that Microsoft wants to shove the new pointy-and-clicky interface down the developers’, the users’ and the enterprise licensees’ throat. Got it. Power. Microsoft is a big outfit, a slightly updated version of IBM. Microsoft once was computing. The fear of losing market share, revenue, and clout seems to be the motivation behind the Draconian actions assigned to Microsoft. My view? Er, what’s new here?

Second, check out “The Bottom Line on Apple and YouTube.” A real journalist turned video management wizard asserts that Apple’s dumping of YouTube in the next Apple mobile operating system is a good thing. Yep, lemons become lemonade. My view is that Apple is throwing its considerable weight around. Neither Samsung nor Google intimidate the Infinity boys and girls. Apple pretty much has money and the idea that it can do what it wants. No problem. My view? Er, what’s new here?

Third, what about eBay launching into an alleged retail war with Amazon, the cost challenged “we do everything too” outfit? Point your always updated browser at “Analysis: eBay Lures Big Retailers in Amazon Battle.” The write up is the product of a “real” journalistic operation which has so so blog security, according to some other “real” journalists. The main point of this masterpiece of mavenism is that eBay is “enticing some of the world’s largest retailers.” The idea is that Amazon is “no so good” and eBay is “somewhat more good.” My view? Er, what’s new here?

In each of these write ups, the topic in my opinion is power. With options disappearing more quickly than local storefronts in rural Kentucky, choices are dwindling down. Those who have the money and resources to go after likely targets are now engaging in pure power moves. I am not convinced that the 99 percenters have much, if any, choice.

If Microsoft makes Metro the default, what choice do I have? If Apple deletes YouTube, what choice do I have? If eBay captures a merchant from which I wish to buy something, what choice do I have? Sure there are some limited options, but the competition is similar to battles between Caesar and Pompey. Great choice? Which “captain” do you prefer? We know who won and we know the outcome?

Online, as I have written for decades, invites a consolidating utility function eliminates choice as it pursues cost efficiencies. My view is that old fashioned methods like Glass Steagall, limitations of monopolistic behaviors, and controls on lobbyists might—note, I say, “might”—add some friction when MBAs turn the pedal to the metal.

See http://lehighvalleyclanculariusintrospective.blogspot.com/2010/04/glass-steagall-act.html

The bright side of the power moves is that one only has to worry about a handful of companies. I found technology and business more interesting when raw power moves were in the shadows. Brute force is just not elegant. I suppose I could do a query for that “absolute power corrupts” phrases, but I can’t use the local library. There is no branch near me. I could use one of the two or three Web search engines. I could try and ask a former teacher in the neighborhood. Oh, she lost her job and moved back to her home town. I have choices. Perhaps I do not. The power players want control so I can choose their service. Once the options are gone, life will be much, much simpler and efficient. Efficiency is “good.”

Stephen E Arnold, August 11, 2012

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