Eric R Rose
In the wakes of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica user data scandal, Facebook and other large tech firms are now facing additional problems. For Facebook, market capitalization continues to fall rapidly, and Mark Zuckerberg remains aloof. Shares have fallen 17% since the close on Friday, March 16th with no signs of recovering. Next, Amazon is facing heavy scrutiny from President Trump, who has expressed interest in creating an antitrust or competition law. Amazon’s shares in turn have dropped 5%. Finally, Apple is experiencing uncertainty among shareholders following poor sales of the $1,000 iPhone X.
Tech firms have experienced incredible growth this decade, but are now under tremendous pressure following the Facebook scandal. Apple, Alphabet and Amazon account for 10% of the S&P 500; add Microsoft and Facebook into the mix, and that number goes up to 15%. Technology firms overall make up 25% of the S&P 500, and current trends among these firms have resulted in the largest quarterly decline in the stock market since 2015. I for the first time in my life agree with President Trump’s idea of an antitrust law against Amazon, as they may be entering too many markets. What does the future entail for these primarily successful tech firms? Do you expect growth to resume, or are we entering a period of declines and extended uncertainty?
Although created back in 2009, Blockchain technology has recently emerged as a breakthrough platform among current cryptocurrency popularity. Put simply, a blockchain is a series of transactions, or “blocks”, that are interconnected and virtually impossible to be tampered with. The high-security aspect of this technology is very attractive to businesses dealing with highly confidential data, like banks. An additional capability of the blockchain is the removal of reliance on a third party during a transaction. This technology offers a simple and secure peer-to-peer transaction method. The major disadvantage of blockchain technology is the speed of transactions. Because each node on a blockchain network must process each new transaction, it can take significantly longer. However, this is part of its security feature, as every single previous transaction created must be changed if one desires to tamper with a new block (this is basically impossible).
Hundreds of applications are now built on a blockchain, with the most popular being Bitcoin and Ethereum. Although Bitcoin was what opened many eyes to blockchain technology, major companies are showing interest in Ethereum’s blockchain because of a specific capability it offers that Bitcoin does not. Ethereum was built on a blockchain that supports something called smart contracts. Blockchains that support smart contracts allow things like loans and other payments to take place automatically after minimal input into the system. For example, a person that puts an innovation on Kickstarter will collect his/her donations once the goal is met. However, Kickstarter will return donations to the donators if the project does not reach its goal. The third party in this example, Kickstarter, is no longer needed when a user (or a large business like Microsoft) utilizes a blockchain that offers smart contracts, saving time and money. Will blockchain technology continue to develop and in turn drive the value of cryptocurrencies up as well?
As you have probably heard by now, corporate behemoths Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase & Co. have joined forces to disrupt the current healthcare situation in the United States. Their plan, led by Jeff Bezos (current richest man in the world), Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon, is to create an independent healthcare company for their families and employees, which includes over 1 million Americans. Although in the early stages, the companies aim to release this form of healthcare to all Americans one day. Additionally, the CEOs said that the independent company would be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints”. In my mind, the biggest implication coming from this story is Amazon’s entry to the healthcare and pharma industries. Another step has now been taken toward Amazon taking over the world.
Now, how does this news relate to our class and IT? These are three of the largest companies in the world who have unfathomable amounts of data. Additionally, Amazon has been a leader in technology for years, so of course they understand how to collect, analyze and utilize their data. This data shows the companies how consumers make choices and why, and they plan to use technology to increase efficiency and simplicity for these consumers. They have the opportunity improve sustainability using technology as well, an area where the government has not excelled. Finally, they have the opportunity to modernize and digitize legacy processes like calling a doctor’s office to set up an appointment. A professor at the University of Michigan stated that this process could become similar to booking a reservation at a restaurant using Open Table.
What do you think additional implications could be if a giant like Amazon penetrates yet another massive industry? Could this idea eventually become a success? How could this threat to current leaders in the industry change their current business models and processes?