The four horsemen of tech

MG Siegler:

We all know the “four horsemen” of tech: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. These are the companies that pretty much everyone agrees will shape the foreseeable future of the tech sector. In some circles, that list makes waves for who is not included: Microsoft. But any rational thinker (meaning those outside of Redmond or anyone who hasn’t made a career as a .Net developer) knows that Microsoft simply no longer belongs on that list.

But that doesn’t mean the list is perfect. In fact, I do think there’s an omission that’s becoming a glaring one: Samsung.

MG makes some interesting arguments about why Samsung should be the fifth horseman. There is no doubt the company is huge and has a lot of resources, but for me the question is can Samsung predict what consumers will want before they know they want it.

That’s one of Apple’s greatest strengths. They’re working on products we don’t even know we’ll want yet, but when they’re released, we have to have them.

  • Bravado

    Samsung doesn’t need to predict what people want. They’ll just stick to their fast follower techniques and out-sell whoever is the first to deliver a hit new product.

    • def4

      Being predictable is very dangerous in war and business.

  • quietstorms

    I can’t put Samsung among the big four solely because they’re so dependent on others for software.

    • Tvaddic

      They aren’t dependent on Android, some of the features of their phones aren’t native Android features. There is a difference between being dependent, and taking use of a free service. I believe they don’t care anything about Android, which is why they take so long to release new software updates.

      • JohnDoey

        Without Android, Samsung cannot ship phones. That is the definition of dependent.

        • Tvaddic

          There is a difference Samsung is taking advantage, and Apple is dependent on some Samsung components, but less so currently. Samsung raises the prices and Apple has to say yes. Google releases something for free, and Samsung takes advantage.

  • Tvaddic

    The Samsung Galaxy, they put out a daring product that everyone said it would fail when they first say it. Their smart tvs, and the features of the S3, the screen will continue to stay lit if you are looking at it, and s beam. SSamsung did some predicting, or else they wouldn’t have sold as much product as they did. I believe the proof will come this year at CES, and with the S4 On an unrelated note, what did Facebook predict?

    • JohnDoey

      Samsung products are ALL copies of an already successful product from another vendor. Finding an interesting or even unique single feature doesn’t change that. “Fast following” is the Samsung business model.

      • Tvaddic

        Samsung has copied in the past, put it is much harder to make a case with Samsung’s current phones to say they copied anyone. Their current phones look like Samsung phones. And at least in the US, customers don’t typically pay phones whole sale, they do contracts. Where a S3 and an iPhone are both 200 dollars.

  • Tvaddic

    And speaking of Apple and Samsung, Samsung probably has a ton of tv patents, it Apple comes out with this television. I wonder how many of Samsung’s patents they will be able to escape.

    • JohnDoey

      Samsung have antique TV patents. Modern TV is ISO MPEG-4 (QuickTime) based. Modern TV and video patents are all Apple. Apple also makes almost all the TV and video production tools. And the ones Apple does not make still depend on QuickTime.


        Samsung has the most patents in H265 the next codec standard. Their and BBC was chosen in initial draft. Fortunately all will be FRAND or it won’t be a standard.

  • JohnDoey

    Samsung is not in the same class. Apple made traditional phones obsolete, but Samsung still sells traditional phones — just artificially made to look like iPhones. A 2012 Samsung phone is a BlackBerry inside: Java applets, viruses, no native apps, no system software update program, no secure remote app installer, no consumer usability, no reliability — not a real PC class computer like iPhone or iPad.

    Samsung is dining on Nokia and RIM bones, and taking advantage of their 2x footprint in phone markets compared to Apple, who only entered 5 years ago. That meal will end, that advantage will end.

    My roommates used to be 3 Android and 2 iPhones a year ago but now it is 5 iPhones. The Android users got tired of watching the iPhone users do exponentially more tasks with a fraction of the effort, especially when we all paid the same (subsidized) price for our devices. Android and Samsung have no legs.

    • Tvaddic

      With iDevices Apple is making the PC obsolete But they still sell computers.

  • Not sure I agree about Facebook being in there. They don’t seem to “DO”, they just “ARE”. I don’t see them actually “doing” much of anything in the future. I think Zuck is a one hit wonder.

    • def4

      He probably is a one hit wonder. But that may well be enough. Just look at Bill Gates.

      • Gates built a company. I think Zuck may have just built a website.

        • Ummm…both built software that led to a company. Different types of software but both led to a major corporation.

          • I haven’t seen anything that makes Facebook a “major corporation”. It’s just a massively popular/massively profitable website.

          • I’m sorry but any company with a BILLION+ users with 70% being daily users and 1B in revenue (source: Forbes 10/30/12) is major. Maybe your measuring stick is different but Facebook is a major corporation with 1 product: a site.

          • I meant as far as the future goes. In five years, if Facebook has 3 billion members but is pretty much the same as it has been the last five years then they aren’t a major technology influence. They may be a huge part of almost every persons daily life, but that’s not the same as redefining new industries.

          • FB is far from what it was in 2008 and they redefined social (see apps, pages, etc).

            Basically, they’re major now and that’s the discussion (not what will be in the future).

          • I guess we’ll see.

          • Not to harp but we already have. It is a present time discussion and FB belongs.

          • Ok

          • Well, didn’t have to wait long to see they won’t be the same in 5 years:

            It is very smart of them to put dev on a yearly product cycle.

  • Ritesh

    “the question is can Samsung predict what consumers will want before they know they want it.”

    They have started doing that and getting very good at that. Example: Galaxy Note (1 and 2). All of the US tech press was joking about it. While in Asia, it was loved from the moment of launch. The voices against it have died down in US too. Samsung knew people want one of those and have sold in good numbers.

    Innovation is no ones domain. Predicting what customers want, or deciding to follow existing products is done by all 4 (or 6) horsemen. In last year or so, each one had to follow others, Apple had to follow screen sizes. Google followed with social networks, Amazon followed into tablets. Facebook followed with multiple products. Samsung “followed” for long, but have learnt well IMHO and will be on par with others soon.

  • Great point Jim. In mobile they do a great job on 70% of the OS changes but don’t finish the polish. This, I think, is keeping them from shaping the industry, just following and tweaking trends. The hardware is always top notch (spec wise) though.

    In other areas, I’m big on them hands down; especially TVs. Heck, I want their washer and dryer too. 🙂

  • imthedude

    “can Samsung predict what consumers will want before they know they want it.”

    Sure, just copy whatever is hot and throw a slight twist on it. It’s worked well thus far.

  • Of those four, Apple is the only one that’s successful in China.

    • Tvaddic

      You can’t go by just one place. And besides Android has 90% market share in China.

      • I don’t understand your “go by one place” comment? I think you are inferring a conclusion that I didn’t state. And google’s online service, the thing that actually makes them money, is what I was talking about.

    • Ritesh

      By what measure?

  • Microsoft has a lot of fascinating stuff being worked on in their research group, mostly having to do with 3D touchable holograms and other things. If they could get that stuff out of research and into production, even if just for higher end business (like sharing workspaces across continents in, say, hospitals?) — they could make it to be one of the 4 Horsemen, I think.