Competition is good. There’s no shortage of it between tech companies. Whether it’s fighting over a rocket launches or who’s going to win the online-video space, tech companies do a phenomenal job of disrupting traditional industries and themselves. Here are eight of the fiercest rivalries in tech.
Rivalry 1: E-commerce — The incumbent, Amazon
While many e-commerce companies have come and gone, Amazon has remained a stalwart since 1994. The “everything store” has made its name for selling just that — everything from books to food to clothes. While many brick-and-mortar stores have an online equivalent, Amazon’s online-first presence cemented its dominance in online shopping. That is, until one startup decided to take it on by hitting it where it hurts: pricing.
The challenger: Jet
Damage report: Amazon still has the edge, at least for now. While Jet has struggled to find a sustainable business plan, Amazon’s finances remain strong and don’t seem to be affected by the upstart yet. But don’t count Jet out, though — the company is well-funded, having raised more than $565 million, and people love saving money. While an Amazon membership comes loaded with perks like TV and free two-day shipping, Jet’s lower-cost selection might find its own niche in customers who are looking for a deal, not perks.
Rivalry 2: Ride-hailing in China — The incumbent, Didi Kuaidi
Didi Kuaidi, the result of a merger between two competing companies, is China’s homegrown ride-hailing app. The company announced on Monday that in January it added 10 million users alone and surpassed the break-even point in more than 200 of its 400 cities served. It also crossed $800 million in gross bookings for the first time — although it doesn’t account for how much it’s spending to get those.
The challenger: Uber – While the ride-hailing company has gained a strong foothold in the US, the same isn’t true for its Uber China branch. Run as its own unit valued at $8 billion, Uber’s China presence is trying to turn a profit, but is spending enormous amounts of money to do so. It’s facing a complicated Chinese market and fierce competitor from Didi Kuaidi, so it’s world-conquering tendencies aren’t a guarantee.
Damage report: Didi Kuaidi and Uber are racing each other to the bottom and spending a lot of money to do so. Compared to the US market, it’s not a clear-cut win for Uber. Uber’s CEO has called Didi Kuaidi unprofitable in every city, but the company says that it’s now break-even in 200 out of the 400 cities it operates in. Despite being valued at $8 billion, Kalanick also says that the Chinese branch of Uber is losing $1 billion a year in the war against Didi Kuaidi.
It’s hard to say who’s the winner considering that misinformation and mudslinging abound in this fight, but both companies have dug in their heels and opened their wallets into winning the market.
Rivalry 3: The space race — The incumbent, SpaceX
SpaceX wants to make reusable rockets that can carry goods to the International Space Station, and one day even bring humans to Mars. Founded by Elon Musk in 2002, it’s been awarded contracts by NASA to resupply the space station with cargo. It’s been struggling to land a rocket upright so it can be reusable and was beaten to the punch — kind of — by a competitor, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
The challenger: Blue Origin – Blue Origin had remained under the radar until its founder, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, posted on Twitter to brag about its rocket landing. Similar to SpaceX, it had been working on perfecting landing a rocket upright so it can be reusable — and it got to the milestone first. Its goal, though, is to ferry people into space for space travel, not resupply the space station or travel to Mars. It’s a different kind of project than what SpaceX is working on, yet bad blood remains between them.
Damage report: A Twitter spat between the two companies made them rivals, despite Blue Origin and SpaceX going after two different goals. SpaceX and Blue Origin have two different goals, but publicly feuding on Twitter about their accomplishments seems to have caused bad blood between the companies.
It started when Jeff Bezos tweeted that a reusable rocket was the “rarest” of breeds and that when done right can look easy. SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, was quick to point out that his company has done similar tests on suborbital flights, so it wasn’t exactly rare. While this is a laudable accomplishment, Blue Origin is operating at only one-tenth the speed it needs in order to get up into space and on its way to Mars, the goal of SpaceX, according to Musk.
As the speed increases, the difficulty of relanding a rocket also increases because it takes more power to slow the rocket down after its faster reentry speed. Here’s a good explainer on the entire fight the two launched into. By the end of the spat, SpaceX proved its point that it had had similar accomplishments, but respected what Blue Origin had done.
All was well until Bezos tweeted a month later to congratulate SpaceX and “welcome” them to the club that it claims to have started. That’s some major shade from the Amazon CEO.
Rivalry 4: Online video — The incumbent, YouTube
YouTube changed the internet when it allowed people anywhere to be the stars and upload their own videos. There’s no denying that it has a firm foothold on internet video, but its long reign as a viral launchpad on the Web is threatened by two social networks that want to steal audiences away from the Google-owned property.
The challenger: Facebook – Facebook’s days of providing simple status updates are long gone. Its introduction of auto-play videos has more people tuning in — or so it says. Facebook is also emphasizing its live videos by tweaking its newsfeed algorithm so your timeline looks less like a newspaper and more like a TV station.
The other challenger: Snapchat – Snapchat, the rapidly rising competitor to YouTube and Facebook, is making it easy for people to capture and send videos to one and other. While YouTube is public, Facebook and Snapchat are capitalizing on friends sharing their own lives with each other.
Damage results: YouTube’s monopoly has been broken as Facebook is an increasingly larger video outlet, and Snapchat has jumped into the ring. While YouTube says that only “billions” of videos are watched daily, Facebook and Snapchat aren’t afraid to stick a number to it. Facebook counts 8 billion views every day on its network, by defining a view as when someone watches an auto-play video for at least three seconds.
On Monday, Snapchat’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, revealed that his company is hitting the same mark at 8 billion views daily. YouTube instead prioritizes watch time as the metric it wants to be evaluated by. With video consumption skyrocketing on all three platforms, expect the race to capture attention among the three services to become increasingly competitive.
Rivalry 5: Streaming video service — The incumbent, Netflix
Netflix pioneered the shift from DVDs to digital, and it’s the streaming service of choice for many a millennial. It’s a combination of old shows waiting to be binge-watched and new original content. Shows like “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and its “Arrested Development” remake are just a few that have drawn viewers to its service.
The challenger: Amazon – Amazon’s shows, including “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle,” have won Golden Globes and drawn new audiences to Amazon Prime. The company has also signed new deals to buy movies from Woody Allen and other top Hollywood stars, putting it in direct competition with Netflix, which is going after the same thing.
Damage control: Netflix remains on top for its original programming, but Amazon is a threat that can no longer be ignored. Plus, its members get free shipping. The Hulu vs. Netflix fight is a thing of the past. While the two companies still compete for cord cutters’ attention, they’ve diverged in pretty meaningful ways.
Hulu has a lot of right-after-it-airs videos, so people can catch up with their favorite shows they’d normally be watching on TV. That leaves Netflix — and its new challenger — to own the new market for original content. The two approach it in different ways, but both are going after the same thing: programming that will set it apart from its competitors.
While Netflix still wins with brand recognition and a back catalog of movies and shows, Amazon’s membership does come with the perks of free shipping and the company’s other services, so it’s likely to gain ground.
Rivalry 6: The cloud — The incumbent, Amazon Web Services
Amazon isn’t just a collection of books online. It’s developed one other important business: Amazon Web Services. The cloud-computing platform is used to host data for some of the biggest names in tech, including Netflix and Pinterest. Its dominance in the space is obvious when a center goes down and everything from IMDb to Tinder is taken offline.
The challenger: Microsoft Azure – Like Amazon, Microsoft’s only business isn’t creating Windows. It has its own cloud platform called Azure that’s become a big priority for the company. Amazon still dwarfs it in market share, but Microsoft has signaled that it’s not ceding the entire space to AWS.
Damage report: Amazon Web Services still has a strong lock on the market, but Azure’s growth might soon outpace it. AWS still has a firm lead, but Azure’s growth is starting to help it gain market share. A Goldman Sachs note, as reported by Investor’s Business Daily, predicted that the two will continue to grow and cannibalize market share from the smaller players. Then they’re likely to turn on each other. Goldman Sachs predicted AWS to have 54% of the market share in 2017 with Azure trailing at 17%. That’s up from 39% and 9% for the respective companies this year.
Rivalry 7: Electric Cars — The incumbent, Tesla
Tesla is the most visible pioneer of the electric car in the world. While other upstarts like Faraday Future are trying to cause a dent in the market, Tesla is still the go-to for people who can afford it. Tesla’s truly magical moment came last year, when it updated its cars overnight with autonomous driving software — just like you would update your phone. Traditional cars just can’t do that.
The challenger: Apple – Apple is mum on its car plans, and its CEO, Tim Cook, compares it to waiting for Christmas Eve for quite a while. There’s an estimated 600 engineers working on the project, nicknamed Project Titan, and neighbors have already been complaining about the noise coming from Apple’s suspected car garage.
Damage results: Tesla may have a product, but the two are embroiled in a war over talent. While most automakers are working on some version of an electric car, Apple is the one that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has gone after publicly. After Apple poached a few Tesla engineers to come work on its car, Musk told German newspaper Handelsblatt that it’s because they’re hiring the people his company let go.
“They have hired people we’ve fired,” Musk reportedly told the German newspaper. “We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”
That’s a harsh slam against a company, considering that no one knows what they’re building, but Musk already considers it an “open secret” that Apple is working on a car to rival his own.
Rivalry 8: Video-game live-streaming — The incumbent, Twitch
Owned by Amazon, Twitch is a live-streaming video-game platform. That’s right — it lets people watch other people play video games. As e-sports have become more popular and gamers become professional, there’s a growing fan base around watching other people conquer video games and seeing how they do it. The company has already hit 100 million visitors monthly and remains the top in its segment for online streaming.
The challenger: YouTube – Owned by Google, YouTube made its name as a place to watch other people’s videos. Visit YouTube’s gaming site, and it looks nothing like the video player you’re used to. Like Twitch, YouTube is starting to woo gamers into broadcasting onto its platform. At any time you can find hundreds of people streaming “Minecraft” games or click through to reviews or tutorials also found on YouTube.
Damage results: Twitch is trying hard to hold on to its first-place trophy. While Twitch has been the long unchallenged de facto site for gamers, the arrival of YouTube Gaming drew it into battle. Website Tom’s Guide rated YouTube above Twitch for its pricing and viewing experience, and other reviewers have loved it for its TiVo-like qualities. Since it’s a YouTube video, you can rewind or let it buffer, skipping through the parts you don’t want to watch. Twitch, though, still has the most active and engaged fans, and that counts for a lot if you’re looking at visitors. While YouTube may be a better experience for some, Twitch’s community still can’t be beat — at least for now.