This article is a part of the On Tech publication. You can enroll right here to obtain it weekdays.
My colleagues wrote in regards to the eye-popping gross sales numbers coming from America’s expertise superstars, together with Google, Facebook and Amazon. Their gross sales and earnings this 12 months, in the midst of a pandemic, are really exhausting to fathom. It’s a lot cash, you guys.
But these corporations additionally spend gobs of cash, which in flip helps them make more cash.
The capacity to spend like loopy — as a result of Big Tech has cash and hardly anybody questions how the businesses spend it — is likely one of the secrets and techniques to why the tech trade giants are so troublesome to unseat.
Just a few examples: Amazon employed 250,000 full- and part-time staff — on common roughly 2,800 every day within the 90 days that led to September — and then about 100,000 extra folks in October, the corporate stated. Google has spent almost $17 billion this 12 months on issues like hulking pc tools — that’s about the identical as Exxon’s comparable spending determine for digging oil and gasoline out of the bottom.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg talked excitedly on Thursday about spending no matter it takes on futuristic tasks like eyeglasses that overlay digital photographs with the true world. Imagine strolling down the road and seeing a digital record of menu gadgets for the taco store on the nook.
Some of these things, sure, can instantly assist corporations generate extra of these eye-popping gross sales and earnings that my colleagues wrote about. When Amazon hires folks to work in its warehouses or to drive vehicles, these staff assist push extra packages to your door this Christmas.
But plenty of these things, actually, who is aware of. What the heck is Apple cooking up in its analysis labs, on which it spent $19 billion within the final 12 months? Can Facebook get us to purchase right into a way forward for our world combined with digital photographs? Are Amazon’s gazillions of latest bundle warehouses, transportation depots and pc facilities actually justified? This is the form of stuff which may by no means repay.
And that’s one cause Big Tech is so completely different. Few giant corporations get principally patted on the again for spending cash in ways in which could — or could not — repay.
This is a part of the final word dilemma about these expertise giants that dominate our lives and usually our leisure and work hours. They make tons of cash, which implies they’ve more cash to remain on prime. (Also, governments and opponents say these corporations break the foundations to benefit themselves on the expense of rivals, hurting shoppers like us.)
One of probably the most cringe-inducing phrases in enterprise is “moat.” What this implies is an organization has some distinctive benefit — a globally acknowledged model identify for Coca-Cola, or a novel expertise that helps Uber transfer vehicles round effectively — that offers it an unbreachable border of water full of monsters.
It’s a horrible, overused piece of jargon. But the tech superstars have a moat. (Imagine me cringing as I typed that.) Their distinctive benefit is entry to large piles of cash. And they’re utilizing it to dig that watery trench of monsters even deeper.
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Don’t fall for bogus holiday ‘deals’ online
Retailers really, really, really want you to start your holiday shopping early, because — well, read this about possible holiday package shipping delays. That means Black Friday and other preholiday sales have already started. The problem is, a lot of times when websites scream DEAL it’s not actually a good deal.
Nathan Burrow from The New York Times’s product review website, Wirecutter, has these tips to make sure we’re not getting fooled by something that promises a discount but is a bad buy:
Comparison shop: The hot item that the website says you can’t find for less anywhere else? Yeah, you probably can. Type the name of the product into a shopping search in your web browser. (If you’re considering a “flash” sale online, first add the item to your shopping cart. Often you have up to 15 minutes to check out, enough time to check on the price.)
Read the reviews: Customer reviews aren’t always reliable. So read up on a product that intrigues you from multiple publications — may I suggest Wirecutter? This isn’t a guarantee that you’re getting a good price, but it will help you avoid getting excited by a sale and buying a junk product.
Use (free!) shopping tools: Websites like CamelCamelCamel.com or Keepa will give you a useful, albeit imperfect, idea of how much a given item has sold for on Amazon over time. That’s a good indication of whether you’re getting a good deal right now, or can wait.
Even when you’re not shopping on Amazon, you can check whether the retailer’s price is a good deal by comparing it to how much the same product tends to sell for on Amazon.
Have an informed plan: Don’t believe the hype, be patient and know that there are good discounts to be found. You may just need to cut through the noise to find them.
Before we go …
He’s a star on Facebook. He’s not sure why: My colleague Kevin Roose talked to Dan Bongino, the right-wing commentator who said he can’t really explain why he went from a B-list pundit to one of the most popular figures on Facebook. Kevin writes that it’s both charming and terrifying that people like Bongino get big on Facebook, YouTube and TikTok because their “personas happen to fit into the grooves of a platform’s algorithm.”
Listen to this to understand the antitrust case against Big Tech: Lina Khan helped reshape the legal views on how antitrust laws apply to big technology companies. On my colleague Kara Swisher’s podcast, “Sway,” Khan had a clear explanation of how she believed big technology companies hurt all of us, and she gave a glimpse inside Congress’s recent investigation into Big Tech power.
Sigh. Math problems by emoji is not a good solution: Bloomberg News writes about teachers in the Philippines improvising remote classes with printed handouts and lessons over Facebook Messenger, because a majority of the country’s households have limited internet access. One teacher started texting her students a daily math problem using emojis in place of numbers.
Hugs to this
The best moment of my week was reading this article about people who are obsessed with the $300 12-foot Halloween skeleton sold by Home Depot. (Also hello to this video of a Home Depot skeleton lashed to the roof of a Mini Cooper.)
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