Apple, Google, Microsoft and Me

Or: a funny thing happened on the way to the bathroom. Plus, 7 other things I think you'll find worth reading.

I’m Bill Murphy Jr. Welcome to Understandably. Thanks for reading.
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Some days it’s hard to decide what to write about. Other days, it hits me on the way to the bathroom.

Don’t worry, this story isn’t about to get gross or anything.

It’s just that on Saturday I was with my wife and daughter, and I stepped away for a minute. As I walked off, I did something many of us do reflexively.

I took my phone out of my pocket and glanced at the screen. The time was 4:45 p.m. And the single notification on my iPhone went like this:


The Verge

Microsoft unveils new Edge browser logo that no longer looks like Internet Explorer.

I stopped short. Not that I care about Microsoft’s logo. It’s just that I was struck by something I see every day but I don’t normally think much about — just how deeply our biggest tech companies have dug their claws into every waking moment.

Apple delivers a message from Google to tell me about Microsoft.

Let’s unpack that a bit further, and stretch it out:

  1. Apple is the world’s biggest public company at $1.14 trillion. It controls 45 percent of the U.S. smartphone market. They’ve successfully conditioned me to the point that I automatically, constantly, check my iPhone. In so doing, I find a breathless alert from …

  2. Google, the world’s #4 public company at $877 million. It controls (a) 38 percent of all digital advertising, (b) half of all smartphone operating systems, and about 62 percent of all search traffic. Here, it’s taking up prime space on my phone to tell me something totally inconsequential about …

  3. Microsoft, the world’s #2 public company, worth $1.1 trillion. And while I don’t care much about the logo, let’s just notice that it’s trying to regain the position it held roughly 15 years ago, when 93 percent of us used its Internet Explorer browser.

I’ve been thinking about how to write about all the antitrust investigations into the big tech companies.

Technically, Amazon (#3, with an $888 million market cap as of this writing), and Facebook, (#5, $552 million as of right now), aren’t in my story. But they’re nearby.

For one thing, there was an Amazon Echo literally 10 feet from me when I checked my phone. Plus, about 20 percent of the people who read this will find it via Facebook.

Currently, 47 out of the 51 state attorneys general are running an antitrust investigation of both Google and Facebook. The Federal Trade Commission and European Union are running antitrust investigations of Amazon.

Apple has seemed safer in the U.S., although European regulators have put a target on it. And Microsoft, of course was the target of perhaps the third-biggest antitrust investigation in history.

(I’m going to put it behind Standard Oil and Bell Telephone, since both of those actually resulted in corporate breakups.)

For all the concerns, I’m not sure whether broken-up tech companies will actually be better than monopolistic ones — perhaps with some tougher scrutiny and laws that were actually written in the same century we’re living in.

To paraphrase the late Henny Youngman:

How are your monopolistic tech companies?

Compared to what?

But for what it’s worth, it was this one tiny moment, literally on the way to the bathroom, that brought the whole thing into sharp relief.

Hundreds of readers replied Friday to my request for logo feedback. I don’t think I’m going to go with any of the logos exactly as-is, but I got some great ideas. Thank you very much!

Here are seven other things I think are worth reading today:

  1. McDonald’s fired its CEO for a relationship with an employee that “violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment.” I wrote about the smart way McDonald’s released the news. (Me, on Inc.)

  2. The U.S. government has opened a national security investigation into TikTok. Suddenly antitrust doesn’t seem so bad in comparison. (Reuters)

  3. Smugglers are reportedly using a $100 electric power saw to cut through sections of the new, 30-foot border wall. (The Washington Post)

  4. Do you doodle when people are talking to you? Turns out it might be helping you pay better attention. (CNET)

  5. True or false? If you can manage a Waffle House, you can manage anything. (The Wall Street Journal)

  6. Under Armour revealed it’s under federal investigation over its accounting practices. (Business Insider)

  7. Here’s the progress firefighters are making against the Southern California wildfire. (Associated Press)