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Are Tech Giants in Trouble in 2018? Why One LBS Prof Thinks They Could Be

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Last year, tech giants such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook already started facing new regulations and pushback from government officials. For example, last November, the State of Missouri launched an investigation into Google to see if it had violated antitrust and consumer protection laws. Julian Birkinshaw, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School, thinks that’s only the beginning.

“The tech giants are huge beasts, and there is a growing sense of unease about their power,” Birkinshaw said in a news article on the school website. He went on to talk about various fines already levied against big tech firms such as Google, which was ordered to pay 2.4 billion euros last June for abusing its internet search monopoly to promote its online shopping service. Facebook, meanwhile, got slapped with a €110-million fine by the European Union for providing misleading information about its takeover of WhatsApp.

According to Birkinshaw, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. “Over the coming year we can expect to see more of this aggressively activist approach in tackling companies with dominant positions,” he wrote.

What’s driving this more aggressive regulation? Birkinshaw believes it has to do with the old supplier-manufacturer-distributor-consumer model, which doesn’t fit these new tech giants. Antitrust legislation wasn’t designed to cope with tech companies whose profitability increases rapidly alongside its growth.

For example, Facebook has more than two billion active users, Google handles 42 percent of all U.S. digital advertising, and Amazon has all but eliminated would-be competitors. Birkinshaw sees no signs of these companies slowing down.

“The more people who join Facebook or use Google, the more data the company can mine. The economies of scale become ever greater,” Birkinshaw wrote. “So we need to rethink the way we monitor the power of the huge companies now dominating the business landscape.”

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.