Big tech set to face greater scrutiny?

1 min read

Over the past six years Apple has acquired around 100 companies. At a time when the company is generating a mountain of cash – almost £80bn alone in its first-quarter of 2021 – the signs are that this rate of acquisition is likely to continue.

Among its high profile acquisitions have been its $3bn purchase of Beats Electronics, the headphone maker, and the music recognition software company Shazam, for $400m.

Apple's list of acquisition is extremely varied from companies working in artificial intelligence to a payments start-up and it recently made a move into self-driving technologies.

The company has plenty of money to fund these acquisitions, but does seem to be less profligate that some other ‘big tech’ companies. $3bn pales next to the multi-billion deals that have been conducted by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon.

Apple’s strategy of harvesting profit from its current businesses and investing in new areas seems to be working and its focus on gaming and content generation appears to be paying dividends. Apple, in recent years, hasn't always been that successful when it comes to launching its own new products.

Whether Apple’s strategy is good for the wider technology market is a different matter. Is the dominance of just a few tech giants something we just have to live with or will industry regulators start to take a more muscular approach?

While Apple appears to be targeting smaller tech companies could it start using its massive wealth to make much bolder strategic acquisitions on a much bigger scale, such as Netflix for example?

There is certainly an expectation that acquisitions made by big tech companies will come in for more scrutiny. Between 2008 and 2018 Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple made 400 acquisitions, but only a “handful” were reviewed by competition regulators and none were blocked.

The recent clash between Facebook and the Australian government suggests that could be about to change.