Benedict Evans @benedictevans Trying to work out what's going on and what happens next. Curious. Easily bored. Single parent. Expat in San Francisco. @a16z May. 11, 2019 1 min read

Tech monopolies tend not to fall like Rome. They fall like Venice. They’re still there, and no-one actually invades them, but the trade routes moved, the things that gave them power and wealth stop mattering, and they become just another city, and then a backwater.

The Portuguese and Dutch didn’t take over Venice’s trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean. They sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and went direct to the sources further east. Nothing Venice had gave it any lead in that - you can’t take a galley to India

Microsoft didn’t take IBM’s mainframe business, and Apple and Google didn’t take Microsoft’s businesses in PC operating systems or spreadsheets. And those businesses have a long half life, but they stopped being the means for dominance. No-one is scared of IBM or Microsoft today.

Eventually they disappear. Bonaparte shut down the Venetian Republic a century or more after anyone would have cared. Then it was traded on to the Austrians. Look at Olivetti, or Boroughs, or Friden, or Sun. They end up as footnotes in someone else’s balance sheet.

Related: I'm intrigued by people who point to Microsoft's market cap or financials as evidence it's still somehow dominant in... something. The mere fact that Apple, Google and Amazon have similar market caps should ipso facto show the change

Being rich is not the same as being powerful. Power is the ability to make people do something they don't want to do. Power means people worry about what you will do. In 1995, everyone worried what Microsoft would do. In 1980: IBM. Today?


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