‘The Four’ considers the enormous power accrued by the big four technology giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Whilst it isn’t a fiction, it really gives you an insight into how these huge corporation came up from a ‘germ’ of an idea to becoming what they are today; the exception being Apple, however, that organisation really did undertake a metamorphosis to come back from the brink of collapse and introduced levels of innovation never before seen in the consumer world.
Remember when Tom Hanks puts the smaller competitor out of business in the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’, he puts it simply – “It’s not personal, it’s business”. Well, Scott Galloway has been, a number of times that smaller competitor which has been swallowed, strangled and snuffed out. But even saying that his appraisal of the business acumen within The Four is straight and follows the same line throughout; which could lead you to wholly believe the slight bent towards how “smart” the four are. I then have to lead myself back to “it’s not personal, it’s business”. 😉
The book points the trail of how socially involved the big four and their operations are in our everyday lives. It does an excellent job in putting a context to how dependent yet oblivious we are to the encroachment of the big four into our lives. The featured companies have managed to get ‘inside our minds’ to create an emotional, perhaps addictive, relationship with us, even if we do not necessarily know it or accept it. Don’t agree with me? Try to delete various social media apps to recover from so called “Facebook depression” only to discover it is virtually impossible to share photographs you have taken with your smartphones on the same social media. Difficult, isn’t it?
This observation takes place at a very interesting time for the only competition the Four face are from each other, and the race is between them to become the premier operating system. The author most definitely knows what he’s talking about. He has written not only with great insight but also with considerable humour, not least about the origins of our consumerist cravings.
The first half of the book looks at the history of retail and the business strategies of each of the Four, whilst the second half chiefly considers the Four’s relations with governments and competitors and suggests future trends.
It is an insightful read, even though there is no shortage of information on these companies available online and in-print. It is an engaging and accessible read. Myths are abound about these companies of course, possibly with a degree of truth at heart, yet how did these companies manage to establish such a firm position? The journey was not necessarily smooth and without pain and neither can the future be guaranteed, but for the time being these giants show no sign of being dislodged from their pedestals.
The author also shows how some of these corporate secrets can be deployed within our own business and private lives – yet naturally can no guarantee be given. As a reader, I learnt some of the strategies deployed by these companies, how they play with industry rivals, customers, regulators and even the governments. While they bring tremendous benefits, they also pose risks, especially to jobs in which the biggest changes are to be anticipated.
I liked the contents, index, references and style and pace of writing, however the author has never worked for any of the four companies he’s discussing, thus it misses out what could have been an industry insider classic; and so you are left wanting more from the text, more explanation, more exposition.
Given the head-start of the Four, Galloway goes on to ask whether there is room for a fifth Horseman? He considers Alibaba, Uber, Tesla, Microsoft, and Verizon. Will any of these make it?
Whatever your own views about these companies – and views can vary on different elements of corporate behaviour and more besides – you surely cannot fail to enjoy this book, even if it does seem to end so quickly as you just churn through its pages, devouring its content along the way. The future can be very interesting, since these giants fight against each other for even-more domination. One or more giant may fall, possibly to be replaced by a yet-unknown. Interesting times are ahead, that is for sure.
I particularly enjoyed the great mix of information, commentary, humour and cynicism presented throughout this book. It is a recommended read even if you don’t think you are interested in just these four companies. BUT if reading a book seems like a tedious task to you, watch Scott Halloway’s TED talk and you will get the jist.
Have you read this book? Do share your thoughts in the comments…