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Tech’s Frightful Five: They’ve Got Us

12 May 2017

From The New York Times:

A few weeks ago, I bought a new television. When the whole process was over, I realized something incredible: To navigate all of the niggling details surrounding this one commercial transaction — figuring out what to buy, which accessories I needed, how and where to install it, and whom to hire to do so — I had dealt with only a single ubiquitous corporation: Amazon.

It wasn’t just the TV. As I began combing through other recent household decisions, I found that in 2016, nearly 10 percent of my household’s commercial transactions flowed through the Seattle retailer, more by far than any other company my family dealt with. What’s more, with its Echos, Fire TV devices, audiobooks, movies and TV shows, Amazon has become, for my family, more than a mere store. It is my confessor, my keeper of lists, a provider of food and culture, an entertainer and educator and handmaiden to my children.

. . . .

This is the most glaring and underappreciated fact of internet-age capitalism: We are, all of us, in inescapable thrall to one of the handful of American technology companies that now dominate much of the global economy. I speak, of course, of my old friends the Frightful Five: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

The five are among the most valuable companies on the planet, collectively worth trillions.

. . . .

 [L]ast week I came up with a fun game: If an evil, tech-phobic monarch forced you to abandon each of the Frightful Five, in which order would you do so, and how much would your life deteriorate as a result?

. . . .

When I went through the thought experiment, I found that dropping the first couple of tech giants was pretty easy — but after that the process became progressively more unbearable. For me, Facebook was the first to go. I tend to socialize online using Twitter, Apple’s messaging system, and Slack, the office-chat app, so losing Mark Zuckerberg’s popular service (and its subsidiaries, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) was not such a big deal.

Next, for me, was Microsoft, which I found slightly more difficult to quit. I don’t normally use any Windows devices, but Microsoft’s word-processing program, Word, is an essential tool for me, and I’d hate to lose it.

In third place, full of regrets: Apple. There’s nothing I use more than my iPhone, and close behind are my MacBook and iMac 5K, which may be the best computer I’ve ever owned. Abandoning Apple would prompt deep and truly annoying rearrangements in my life, including braving Samsung’s bad software. But I could do it, grudgingly.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Amazon, Apple, Google

16 Comments to “Tech’s Frightful Five: They’ve Got Us”

  1. Gee, I’m not using Apple now and I’m ignoring Facebook, Microsoft won’t be getting another penny from me unless they change their ways. I use Google indirectly (duckduckgo) and Amazon sells my ebooks, so I guess it’s the frightful two for me (though I’m feeling little fear.)

    • This is largely where I’m at too, though I do use Google. Not as much as I could, but more than I’d like in an ideal scenario. And of course, I use Amazon, though I’m at least trying to be aware of how much I rely on/connect to it.

  2. Al the Great and Powerful

    Come on, everybody, it’s a sing-along!

    I’ll take the first line,
    “Trolling, trolling, dipping a bait-filled line…”

  3. Felix J. Torres

    At least somebody in the country is busy producing useful things. Unlike politicians and the NYT…

  4. > the Frightful Five: Amazon,

    I buy something through Amazon every week or so.

    > Apple

    I use no Apple products or software.

    > Facebook,

    Nothing there I want to see.

    > Microsoft

    I use no Microsoft products or software.

    > and Alphabet

    Google is one of the several search engines I use. Otherwise, I’d have to look up Alphabet’s structure to find if I’m dealing with any of their other faces.

  5. What I find amusing when anyone carps about Amazon is remembering the leftist fantasy of having a centrally controlled warehouse manufacturing all kinds of wonderful products for the proletariat (I have a book from the 1930s Depression years advocating this).

    The Soviet Union never quite achieved that dream, but Amazon did.

  6. Al the Great and Powerful

    “The Soviet Union never quite achieved that dream, but Amazon did.”

    Yes, and they did it with CAPITALISM, not Communism… In your face, Marx and Lenin!

  7. I’ve never understood why people get so up in arms about certain iconic companies that they insist on investing a significant portion of their psychic energy trying to get through each day without employing these companies’products.

    Non of these companies has ever harmed me or anyone I know, and while I would put FaceBook at or near the bottom of a list of things I could not live without, the other four have regularly provided things which have entertained me or made useful tools that have improved my quality of life.

    • Felix J. Torres

      In certain circles it is “cool” to despise the productive. So: “virtue signaling”. There is also a breed of “intellectual” that prides itself in being anti-american americans. And then there’s the luddites…

      It’s been raining heavily in the northeast. Heavy rain flushes out all sorts of creepy crawlies.

      • Look at it from the view of the NYTs. Who is or has been hurting them and their puppet masters?

        Ms and Apple sell things to let you get your news off the wire/wireless rather than buying something to wrap fish guts in.

        More and more people are getting their news from what their friends point out to them on Facebook, or they google a question for more information.

        And of course they’re getting less money from ads and from publishers buying ‘best seller’ slots as Amazon won’t play along and shows the lie of their numbers.

        Ah, to be able to go back to the days of old, back when getting the NYTs meant some quality reading, but those days are gone and soon the NYTs will join them.

        • Felix J. Torres

          Yeah.
          No. vested interests involved, no oxes getting gored…
          No bias whatsoever…
          No siree, Bob…

    • For me, a lot of it is how those companies, when they get too big for their britches, start treating their customers. (All of this from my own experience/viewpoint, of course.) When a company starts putting out an inferior product where they are trying to force me to use their product as they want me to use it rather than making it adaptable enough that I can use it as I want to use it, I start looking for a different option that will allow me to use the item I paid for in the way I want to use it.

      So ease up, conspiracy theorists. It’s not ‘virtue signaling’ — at least not for a lot of people. It’s simply going, “Okay, big company, you’ve been good for me in the past, but some of your recent decisions have made your product less desirable to me now, and the way you’re starting to treat your customers does not jive with how I want to be treated, so I’m going to see if one of your competitors can provide me with what I want.” Or, in some cases, “Okay, big company, I don’t like your product or your customer service from the get-go, so I’m not even gonna sign on with you in the first place.”

      Choosing to take your business elsewhere when a company starts providing products and/or services that you don’t want is not anti-American. That’s kind of exactly capitalism.

      • Felix J. Torres

        But that is not what that article is about.
        The article is fearmongering–seriously, Frightful five? That’ s a supervillain team name–because the tech companies are “too succesful”. Too big, too useful to too many people and does need to be “reined in” to “give somebody else a chance”. That is most definitely not capitalism.
        What that is collectivistic populism.
        (To see where that leads just look to Venezuela.)

        It isn’t conspiracy theory talk to point out that some people are stridently demeaning of the technologies, companies and people upon which depends our standard of living. Those people exist and they’re proud of their attitudes and they’re all over, emphasizing the negatives and poohing-poohing their many postiives and achievements.
        A question was asked, I provided. an answer.
        And that is based on *my* realrd experiences.
        YMMV but mine hasn’t.

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