Most Influential Tech Companies 2020
Today, technology is one of the most powerful sectors shaping the global economy, driving changes, and setting trends. In the era of COVID-19, technology has acquired an even more prominent role in keeping our societies and economies functional amidst lockdowns and quarantines, by enabling e-interactions, online entertainment, digital payments, telehealth and delivery services. Even as many countries exit the lockdown, technology will continue to have a long lasting impact beyond COVID-19. The Culture Embassy curates some of the most powerful tech companies that will make waves in 2020 and beyond.
There may be talks of Apple facing some challenges and losing market share in China, its largest market, but make no mistake about it, Steve Job’s brainchild is stronger than ever. Even in an insipid economic climate, it still retains its throne as the world’s most profitable tech company with an annual revenue of USD$260.2 billion in 2019.
To top it off, Apple also recently become the world’s second largest technology company by market cap, and its share prices remain resilient even in the face of the coronavirus, where it was largely unaffected by the “market correction” caused by COVID-19. Even when it shut its retail stores during COVID-19 lockdowns, the tech giant’s online store continues to deliver top-tier Apple products to millions of die-hard fans worldwide, proving its undisputed brand value.
If you are still unconvinced, just ask Warren Buffet, whose Berkshire Hathaway holds a USD$90 billion stake in Apple Inc.
The tech giant behind Windows and Microsoft Office may have reported only half of Apple’s 2019 annual revenue, but Microsoft reigns supreme as the world’s most valuable tech company, with an astounding market capitalisation of over USD$1 trillion. A lot of people might not know this, but Microsoft Windows remains the dominant operating system in the work, extending its reach beyond consumer and business PCs and laptops, to servers, phones, intelligent gadgets, as well as productivity applications, business solution apps, management and development tools, games, and many more.
Despite public perception that Apple is winning the tech race, Microsoft is more diversified and more widely used than Apple’s iOS. It is also focusing on the development of innovative technologies for the future, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, thus placing it in a prime position to expand its influence and market capitalisation in the years to come.
While the rest of the world saw their earnings and wealth plummet due to COVID-19 lockdowns, Jeff Bezo’s wealth continue to skyrocket through the roof, and this is hardly surprising, given Amazon’s major surge in demand, where the online retail giant had to go on an enormous 175,000-person recruitment drive to cope with the rising demand. Amazon’s share prices are incredibly resilient as it was just hovering around the USD$2000 mark through the pandemic, but has since rebounded to around USD$2600.
Besides its dominance in consumer e-commerce in the western world, its cloud computing platform called Amazon Web Service, which assists start-ups, enterprises, governments, and academic institutions by providing them with compute, storage, database, and other tech services, has grown to become the world’s largest cloud services provider.
Like its rival, Microsoft, Amazon is also betting on artificial intelligence as the future of tech, with its launch of Alexa, which leverages the virtual assistant AI technology developed by Amazon. For Amazon fans, life can be more than Siri and Cortana.
A lot of people who use Google on a daily basis might not even be aware that Google Inc. had changed its official name to Alphabet Inc. in 2015 as part of a restructuring drive. Android smartphones, which operate on Google’s mobile services, account for a massive 72% of the Mobile Operating System market share. Its Google search engine and chrome browser have also become indispensable to laptop and smartphone users.
Outside of search and advertising, Google also generates revenue from products including cloud and enterprise, consumer hardware, mapping, and YouTube. To maintain its foothold and protect its main source of revenue, Alphabet Inc. is positioning itself to dominate adjacent sectors — such as digital commerce, branded hardware products, and content — and attempting to integrate its services into every aspect of the digital user experience.
The company is also seeking out new streams of revenue in sectors with large addressable markets, namely on the enterprise side, with cloud computing and services. In the foreseeable future, it’s actively exploring industries ripe for disruption, such as transportation, logistics, and healthcare so its dominance is almost certain to expand in the years to come.
In the West, Amazon reigns supreme, but in Asia (particularly China), Alibaba is the e-commerce giant to look out for. Founded on April 4, 1999, the company has evolved from a B2B trading website to become a provider of consumer, business-consumer and business services through web portals, as well as electronic payment and cloud computing services, and an advanced search system for customers.
Other than its own version of e-commerce dubbed Taobao, which pretty much killed off Amazon’s attempts to kickstart its Chinese e-commerce business, Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial, which controls China’s number one digital payment platform, Alipay, is transforming into one of the world’s most successful fintech companies.
To expand beyond China, Alibaba has also acquired Lazada, Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce operator, and also expanded its foray into data centres, gaming, cloud computing (Aliyun), and artificial intelligence. Backed by a massive 1.3 billion Chinese consumer market, the Hangzhou-based tech giant shows no signs of slowing down, and might just overtake Amazon one day.
While Alibaba is the champion of Chinese e-commerce, Tencent wears the crown when it comes to WeChat, China’s number one social media text messaging and payment app, which is accessed by billions of users per day. Although WeChat has its own version of online stores, these are nowhere near the scale of Alibaba’s Taobao, but it has evolved into an indispensable lifestyle app which allows users in Mainland China to hail a cab or book an air ticket.
One area which sets Tencent apart from Alibaba and the rest of its rivals, is its phenomenal success in online gaming, where the company’s games such as “League of Legends”, “Fortnite”, and “Arena of Valor” have become household names in the gaming world. Additionally, the company’s online video streaming platform, Tencent Video, is the equivalent of China’s Netflix, and its collection of movie and drama titles (assuming you can get past the language barrier), is even more extensive than Netflix.
Moreover, the cash-rich tech giant is also venturing into movies with its subsidiary, Tencent Pictures, which is set to be involved in the production and distribution of around 100 movies and TV series in the next three to five years, starting with the exclusive rights to distribute James Bond and Star Wars franchises in China.
Despite recent troubles with Donald Trump and ad boycotts from big-name companies, Facebook’s fundamentals are still strong in the long run. The social media brand is frequented by more than 2 billion users a day, and it owns a lot of other wildly-popular apps and projects such as Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Oculus VR. This ensures that it can continue to stay relevant, and grow its user base.
Furthermore, the social media titan has constantly added games and other host of applications to keep its content on Facebook engaging, along with plans down the road for digital payments on Facebook and WhatsApp. During lockdowns, if there is one portal that people frequent for the latest updates and news, Facebook is the undisputed champion.
While the social media giant isn’t perfect, Mark Zuckerberg is committed to revamping the content policies, and no other social media rivals have come close to replacing it yet.
Samsung is famous for being a global consumer electronics giant, but it is also comprised of three world-class technological units: Consumer Electronics, Information Technology & Mobile Communications, and Device Solutions.
Despite perception that Apple is the most dominant smartphone brand, Samsung is the real market leader in the smartphone market, with Apple and Huawei constantly breathing down its neck. Overcoming the odds during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Samsung still managed to lead the global smartphone market during the first quarter of 2020 by capturing one-fifth of the global smartphone shipment.
Although Huawei overtook Samsung for the first time in April 2020 to become the market leader, this might just be a short-term hiccup for Samsung, given that Huawei will face increasingly challenging business environments in Europe and North America, with the US trade ban possibly damaging Huawei’s prospects in the coming months or years ahead.
In terms of price competitiveness, innovation and sophistication, Samsung’s android smartphones and tablets will continue to give the likes of Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo, a run for their money.