The Great Tech War Of 2012
Gilbert Wong, the mayor of Cupertino, California, calls his city council to order. "As you know, Cupertino is very famous for Apple Computer, and we're very honored to have Mr. Steve Jobs come here tonight to give a special presentation," the mayor says. "Mr. Jobs?" And there he is, in his black turtleneck and jeans, shuffling to the podium to the kind of uproarious applause absent from most city council meetings. It is a shock to see him here on ground level, a thin man amid other citizens, rather than on stage at San Francisco's Moscone Center with a larger-than-life projection screen behind him. He seems out of place, like a lion ambling through the mall.
"Apple is growing like a weed," Jobs begins, his voice quiet and sometimes shaky. But there's nothing timorous about his plan: Apple, he says, would like to build a gargantuan new campus on a 150-acre parcel of land that it acquired from Hewlett-Packard in 2010. The company has commissioned architects--"some of the best in the world"--to design something extraordinary, a single building that will house 12,000 Apple employees. "It's a pretty amazing building," Jobs says, as he unveils images of the futuristic edifice on the screen. The stunning glass-and-concrete circle looks "a little like a spaceship landed," he opines.
Nobody knew it at the time, but the Cupertino City Council meeting on June 7, 2011, was Jobs's last public appearance before his resignation as Apple's CEO in late August (and his passing in early October). It's a fitting way to go out. When completed in 2015, Apple's new campus will have a footprint slightly smaller than that of the Pentagon; its diameter will exceed the height of the Empire State Building. It will include its own natural-gas power plant and will use the grid only for backup power. This isn't just a new corporate campus but a statement: Apple--which now jockeys daily with ExxonMobil for the title of the world's most valuable company--plans to become a galactic force for the eons.
And as every sci-fi nerd knows, you totally need a tricked-out battleship if you're about to engage in serious battle.
To state this as clearly as possible: The four American companies that have come to define 21st-century information technology and entertainment are on the verge of war. Over the next two years, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will increasingly collide in the markets for mobile phones and tablets, mobile apps, social networking, and more. This competition will be intense. Each of the four has shown competitive excellence, strategic genius, and superb execution that have left the rest of the world in the dust. HP, for example, tried to take a run at Apple head-on, with its TouchPad, the product of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm. HP bailed out after an embarrassingly short 49-day run, and it cost CEO Léo Apotheker his job. Microsoft's every move must be viewed as a reaction to the initiatives of these smarter, nimbler, and now, in the case of Apple, richer companies. When a company like Hulu goes on the block, these four companies are immediately seen as possible acquirers, and why not? They have the best weapons--weapons that will now be turned on one another as they seek more room to grow.
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