The Everything Platform: How Big Software Companies are Trying to Become Everything to Everybody Part I

Last week Alibaba announced its entrance in the home assistant market with the release of its Tmall Genie device. Among the many reports of the announcement, some analysts expressed concern about how rapidly the home assistant market is becoming overly crowded. Tmall Genie joins efforts from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and others to be relevant in that nascent space. Interestingly enough, the home assistant market is just one of many examples of a macro-trend occurring in the technology space in which major technology companies are trying to expand into almost every major technology marked by providing an integrated experience. I like to refer to this trend as the Everything Platform.

The Quest for the Everything Platform

Pick two or three of your favorite emerging technology markets and chances are that you will find the same incumbents battling each other for dominance in those markets. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Alphabet, Alibaba, Samsung, Apple and, to a lesser extend, companies such as Baidu or Tencent are trying to be everything to everybody providing innovative solutions on several of the nascent technology markets. A fascinating thing to notice is that, in most of those markets, the incumbents ( and not startups) have become the dominant force regularly outinnovating or regularly acquiring new players. Let’s look at a few examples:

— Artificial Intelligence(AI): AWS, Azure, Alibaba Cloud and Google Cloud all provide cognitive services and machine learning(ML) platforms which enables the implementation and execution of AI solutions. Similarly, Google(TensorFlow), Microsoft(Cognitive Tookit) and Baidu(PaddlePaddle) have open sourced their deep learning stacks nurturing large developer communities.

— Virtual Reality(VR): Microsoft and Facebook have been actively competing in the high end VR space with technologies such as Hololens and Oculus respectively. Samsung and Google have also been active in the market with simpler VR offerings.

— Self-Driving Cars: Baidu and Alphabet are two of the most dominant players in the self-driving vehicle space. Tencent has also disclosed its ambitions in that market with the release of its Apollo/DuerOS stack.

— Digital Assistants & Home Devices: Pick your favorite: Alexa, Cortana, Google Assitant, Bixby, Siri are constantly trying to become your favorite digital partner. Similarly, Echo, HomePod, Home and now TMall Genie are competing to become a hub for your home devices.

— Messaging & Bots: Facebook Messenger, Tencent’s WeChat, Skype, Google’s Allo are some of the platform trying to become the dominant messaging and bots runtime in the market.

— Next Gen Productivity Apps: Office365 and G-Sutie are embarked in a long race to reimagine business productivity applications. Amazon has been slowly entering the space via acquisitions.

— Augmented Reality: Facebook, apple, Google are some of the companies that have announced aggressive AR roadmaps.

— Next-Gen Media & TV: Apple, Facebook Amazon and Alphabet are actively trying to deliver new content and media experiences for TV platforms.

What’s Causing the Emergence of Everything Platforms?

From economic trends to the search for a new runtime, there are several factors contributing to the raise of the Everything Platform trend. That will be the subject of a future post…

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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