How Big Tech Won the Pandemic


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In the early months of the pandemic in the United States, companies had been closing or had been thrown into chaos. Millions of individuals shut their wallets as they had been shut in. I wrote in On Tech at the moment that it wasn’t apparent that America’s greatest know-how corporations would proceed to thrive as they’d for the final decade or so.

The Big Tech bosses sounded uneasy, too. After all, America’s 5 tech titans didn’t accomplish that sizzling in the Great Recession practically 15 years earlier. Maybe they’d endure this time round, too.

Hahahahaha. Yeah … They had been nice. Really, actually nice.

In the final 12 months, the 5 tech superpowers — Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook — had combined revenue of more than $1.2 trillion, as I wrote for The Times on Thursday. It was an odd and wonderful 12 months for Big Tech. I can’t consider it, however a few of the corporations are rising sooner and are extra worthwhile than they’ve been in years.

The pandemic has made the tech giants and their bosses unfathomably wealthy. (Even extra unfathomably wealthy than they had been earlier than.) Apple has a lot further money that it’s spending a further $90 billion to buy its own stock, practically the equal of Kenya’s gross home product. Of the 10 richest people in the world, eight made their fortunes from tech corporations. The man at the high, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, alone is price greater than one-and-a-half Goldman Sachs.

I’ve seen quite a lot of bananas monetary numbers, together with from these 5 tech giants. But I promise you that Big Tech’s numbers are actually so wild that I’m operating out of non-curse phrases to elucidate them.

How did this occur? I’ll provide you with two explanations. First, the pandemic created a peculiar economy that benefited some folks and industries, together with in know-how, even because it battered others. In the final 12 months of disaster, folks and companies had even better demand for what the tech giants had been promoting.

That might sound apparent now, however it wasn’t essentially a 12 months in the past. Americans’ love of residence purchasing turned a security necessity for some folks. Families purchased iPads and Macs as work and college went digital. Any enterprise that also had cash to spend on advertising spent it on Google, Facebook or Amazon. Companies may need reduce in different areas, however they undoubtedly purchased software program from Microsoft and Amazon.

Second, the tech giants used the pandemic as a second to get stronger. In some instances, that meant slicing prices the place it issues much less, like on journey, leisure and advertising. Google stated it was saving more than $1 billion a 12 months on these forms of bills.

On the flip aspect, the tech giants spent large in areas that stretch their benefit. Amazon spent $50 billion in the final 12 months on big-ticket purchases like warehouses and cloud computing hubs. That’s greater than double what Exxon Mobil spends to dig oil and gasoline out of the floor every year. Again, bananas.

As the economies in the United States and another elements of the world come again to life in 2021, the tech giants are lean, imply and able to make much more cash. The questions that I’ve now: Are America’s tech powers invincible? And are they successful at everybody else’s expense?

The first is unimaginable to reply, however it positive feels that manner. And I put that second query to Thomas Philippon, a professor of finance at New York University, who research the rising energy of dominant corporations.

Philippon instructed me that the pandemic and the digital diversifications it compelled did assist smaller companies. Restaurants, for instance, needed to quickly adapt to promote net orders and do deliveries, and plenty of of these investments will assist them in the long term, too.

But he additionally believes that the pandemic most likely widened the hole between the large and wealthy corporations, together with the tech giants, and everybody else. “Definitely there is a sense that it’s a recession that happened to be good for companies that were already doing well,” he stated.



  • Big Tech’s success is awkward, although: The European Union accused Apple of breaking the law through the use of management of its iPhone app retailer to stifle competitors, my colleague Adam Satariano wrote. This is one in every of roughly 4 billion antitrust lawsuits or investigations involving the tech superpowers.

  • Is this the workplace or “The Office”? Google, the firm that has set developments for workplace work and worker perks, is now attempting to reimagine the post-pandemic office. Dai Wakabayashi and Cayce Clifford element Google’s plans, which embrace robots that inflate temporary, cellophane balloon walls and camp-themed out of doors work areas.

  • Read this to really feel completely uncool: Invented out of the blue by folks on TikTok, the time period “cheugy” is a new and not-quite-definable shorthand for issues which can be a bit generic, attempting too laborious or outdated. Instagram’s as soon as dominant aesthetic is peak cheugy. Lasagna is outwardly cheugy, too? Just learn Taylor Lorenz’s rationalization of all this.

Prancer found a home! The Chihuahua {that a} pet adoption volunteer had described as a “rage machine” and a “vessel for a traumatized Victorian child” now lives with a girl in Connecticut, Ariel Davis.

The photos of Prancer enjoying the flowers virtually make him appear huggable. And after all, Prancer has his own Instagram account.


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