The combined force of giants

The Spark

5th October 2017

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the world’s tech giants aptly live up to their namesakes by climbing on the shoulders of one another to be top dog, but the past few months have seen some of the biggest names in tech opting to join forces with rivals rather than do battle.

This week, Microsoft and Samsung announced a collaboration on a ‘mixed reality’ (MR) headset that combines Samsung’s HoloLens technology with Microsoft’s original headset. In a move that is set to dominate the MR market, the giant’s joint venture has resulted in a fast-track ticket to the top. As Mashable journalist Chris Taylor notes in his write up of the collaboration: “When the world’s largest handset manufacturer joins forces with the world’s most widespread operating system, it’s game-changing.”

If you can’t beat them…

Microsoft seems to have the right idea when it comes to rival giants: that it is better to ride the same wave than to take the opposing hit. Earlier this year, Microsoft teamed up with virtual assistant powerhouse Amazon, to pair its voice assistant Cortana with Amazon’s Echo, also known as “Alexa”.

Rather than go head-to-head with Amazon’s Echo –which is incidentally now owned by more than 8 million people since it became generally available in June 2015 – Microsoft saw the benefit of having Alexa as an ally. With that rate of growth, you certainly don’t want her as your enemy.

Going head to head   

Despite Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos claiming that the collaboration between Alexa and Cortana was done with the intent that consumers can “have access to as many of those A.I.s as possible”, it would be naïve to ignore the message this sends to other rival giants.

When squaring up to the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook, it’s best done in company. In June this year, Sky and Virgin teamed up for an advertising deal that threatened to take on Google and Facebook. Sky customers would receive tailored ads delivered to them using tech from Virgin Media’s parent company Liberty Global.

Boasting a transparent and safe ad environment, the partnership seemed to take a swing at Google’s extremist ad controversy. It’s hard to tell whether such a shot would have been taken without the comfort of safety in numbers.

Frenemies

More and more, the benefits of joining forces are becoming attractive options to tech giants. But in an industry that thrives on power and advancement, how fleeting will these attractions be?

What happens when two titans reach the top? Truce?