Like many ideas, this post started with a Tweet…
Having spent the past 25+ years in tech, I’ve lived through a number of tech “wars”. In the early days of PCs, it was the semiconductor wars. In the early days of the Internet, we witnessed the browser wars and as technology continued to advance, we saw the number of wars, and the number of players involved in them grow. So I decided to nerd out on this topic a bit and expand the list or tech wars that were, and those that are yet to fully play out.
In this post, I’ll delve into some of the most notable tech wars, both past and present, and explore the battles yet to come, including several new additions to the list.
Past Tech Wars
- Smartphone Wars: Apple took the lead in the smartphone wars, capturing a significant share of the market with the iPhone. Android may have a larger global market share, but Apple’s loyal customer base, strong brand, and profitable ecosystem made it the clear winner.
- Console Wars: While Sony has a bigger market share in console sales, Microsoft emerged victorious in the console wars with its Xbox line, overcoming competition from Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s gaming systems. A strong focus on online services, exclusive games, and innovation secured Microsoft’s position at the top.
- App Store Wars: Apple dominated the app store wars, building a walled garden around its App Store and generating significant revenue from app sales and in-app purchases. Google’s Play Store remains a strong contender, but Apple’s control over the iOS ecosystem has proven unbeatable.
- Bundle Wars: Apple won the bundle wars with the launch of Apple One, a suite of services including Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud storage at an attractive price. By consolidating its services, Apple locked users into its ecosystem and claimed victory.
- Semiconductor Wars: In the early days of the PC, companies like Intel, AMD, and Motorola competed to create the most powerful and efficient microprocessors, driving the evolution of personal computing.
- Browser Wars: In the early days of the internet, the browser wars saw fierce competition between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and later, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. The war shaped the way users interacted with the web.
- Search Engine Wars: In the late 90s and early 2000s, search engines like Yahoo, AltaVista, and Lycos competed to provide the best search experience, until Google ultimately emerged as the dominant player.
Current Tech Wars
- Streaming Wars: The streaming wars are still raging, with platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Apple TV+ competing for viewership and market share. The future remains uncertain as each player invests in content and innovation to attract and retain subscribers. I wrote about the streaming wars on VC Cafe back in December 2019, and it’s interesting to see how many of my predictions came true: sports, gaming and live content to name a few.
- Cloud Wars: As businesses increasingly adopt cloud services, the battle between cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) intensifies. Each company is vying for dominance, offering unique features and pricing models to attract customers. We are seeing some of this play out in the generative AI space, where the cloud providers are active investors to attract future revenue. I wrote about this in a recent post on VC Cafe.
- Wallet Wars: Digital wallets are transforming the payment landscape, leading to a fierce competition between companies like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. With secure, convenient, and contactless payments, the wallet wars are set to redefine the future of transactions.
- Blockchain Wars: As the potential of blockchain technology becomes increasingly apparent, tech giants and startups alike are racing to develop and implement solutions across various industries. Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, and Cardano are among the leading platforms in this ongoing battle for blockchain supremacy.
- AR/VR and Metaverse: The race to create the ultimate augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and metaverse experiences is heating up. Tech giants like Facebook (Meta), Apple, and Google are investing heavily in AR and VR technologies, competing to define the future of immersive experiences. My post on the 10 companies investing billions in the metaverse is perhaps a bit dated now as the market changed, but the rumoured new Apple XR device might flare things up again.
- Cloud Cybersecurity: With the rise in cloud adoption, securing cloud infrastructure has become a critical concern. Companies like Palo Alto Networks, CrowdStrike, and Zscaler are vying for supremacy in the cloud cybersecurity market, offering cutting-edge solutions to protect valuable data and systems.
- US-China Chip Wars: As the global semiconductor industry faces supply chain challenges and increasing demand, the rivalry between the US and China intensifies, with both nations striving to establish dominance and self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing. This one is not only a tech war, but also geo-political and involves national security interests.
Upcoming Tech Wars
- Quantum Computing: As traditional computing approaches its limits, quantum computing emerges as the next frontier. Companies like IBM, Google, and Intel are competing to develop powerful quantum computers capable of solving complex problems beyond the reach of classical computers.
- Smart Car Wars: With electric and autonomous vehicles gaining traction, the smart car wars are set to intensify. Tesla, Ford, and GM face competition from tech giants like Apple and Google, who are investing heavily in self
- Quantum Computing Wars: As classical computing approaches its limits, the race for quantum computing supremacy heats up. Tech giants like IBM, Google, and Intel are competing to develop powerful quantum computers that can solve complex problems beyond the reach of traditional computers, with potential applications in cryptography, drug discovery, and optimization.:
- Large Language Model (LLM) Wars: AI advancements have led to a competition between tech giants like OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft in the large language model (LLM) space. These AI models, capable of understanding and generating human-like text, will transform industries and unlock new possibilities. New contenders including HuggingFace open source model, Anthropic, AI21 Labs Jurassic, Meta’s LLaMa and others continue to keep this space red hot.
- Space Race 2.0: Private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are competing to revolutionize space travel and exploration, with goals such as commercial space tourism and Mars colonization.
- Biotech Wars: The race to develop cutting-edge biotechnologies is accelerating, with companies vying to create breakthroughs in gene editing, personalised medicine, and synthetic biology.
- Robotics Wars: As robots become more sophisticated and capable, the competition among robotics companies like Boston Dynamics, SoftBank Robotics, and ABB intensifies, with a focus on developing robots for various industries and applications.
- Green Energy Wars: With the global push towards renewable energy, companies like Tesla, Vestas, and First Solar are battling to dominate the market for solar, wind, and other clean energy technologies.
Where does this leave us?
The tech industry has always been a battleground for innovation, market share, and consumer loyalty. As we continue to witness the unfolding of existing tech wars and anticipate the emergence of new ones, one thing is certain: the race for supremacy will drive technological advancements that transform our world in ways we can only imagine.
As a venture capitalist, these tech wars offer both opportunities and challenges. Investing in competitive markets demands a deep understanding of the landscape, the players involved, and the potential for market disruption. Peter Thiel, in his book “Zero to One,” emphasizes the importance of backing companies that aim for monopoly, stating, “Competition is for losers.” The quote highlights the significance of investing in businesses that create and dominate new markets, rather than merely competing in existing ones.
When placing bets in competitive markets, it’s crucial to identify the potential game-changers – companies that redefine industries, create new markets, and ultimately emerge as monopolies. As the tech wars continue to unfold, we must remain vigilant, adaptable, and ready to seize the opportunities that arise from the ever-changing landscape.