“Tech domination”, monopolies, regulation — lots of concepts, fears, and proposed remedies are all getting confused these days in tech. Benedict Evans had this piece of sober analysis to peel apart the differences between companies being rich, dominant in their product space, or dominant in the wider industry.
The tech industry loves to talk about ‘moats’ around a business - some mechanic of the product or market that forms a fundamental structural barrier to competition, so that just having a better product isn‘t enough to break in. But there are several ways that a moat can stop working. Sometimes the King orders you to fill in the moat and knock down the walls. This is the deus ex machina of state intervention - of anti-trust investigations and trials. But sometimes the river changes course, or the harbour silts up, or someone opens a new pass over the mountains, or the trade routes move, and the castle is still there and still impregnable but slowly stops being important. This is what happened to IBM and Microsoft. The competition isn’t another mainframe company or another PC operating system - it’s something that solves the same underlying user needs in very different ways, or creates new ones that matter more.