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GAFAM — which of them is the most critical?

By Jean-Claude Elias - Nov 09,2017 - Last updated at Nov 11,2017

You can think of them as five world superpowers in their own right. They are GAFAM, the now accepted and widely used acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. I must admit I only recently discovered the acronym, though the concept itself, being the crucial role these five entities play in our life, has been understood, acknowledged and felt by the entire world for many years now.

The combined power of these five giants is overwhelming and perfectly illustrates our dependency on digital and on global networks. The business and social impact of GAFAM cannot be underestimated.

Macroeconomics aside, and on a somewhat down-to-earth level, one wonders which of these five is the most crucial on a day to day evaluation. In other, simpler words, should one of them stop working for a while, which one would affect us most? And how?

The answer will unmistakably come with a dose of subjectivity. If for example you use Apple computers and iPhones, then of course for you it is Apple that is the most critical. If your life depends on doing 100 Google searches per day, on gmail and on your Android mobile system, then it would be Google.

On a global scale, however, Microsoft is the enterprise that fuels the largest, and by far, number of computers and networks in the world. With its Windows operating system, be it the version on your personal computer or the one that runs on networks servers, it is not exaggerated to say that the world would stop should Microsoft’s Windows system stop.

After that I would say it is a tie between Google and Apple, with perhaps a little edge for Google. Apple’s iPhones represent an average 13 per cent of the world’s smartphones market. Whereas this is not negligible in absolute value, it is but a fraction of the Android’s market, Google’s system for mobile devices. And of course, Google is not just about Android but about the biggest — and the fastest, let’s not forget — web search engine and information database in the world.

In third position I would put Facebook and Amazon. Despite their gigantic users’ base, we just would not die overnight if they suddenly stopped working. True, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and boss has recently overtaken Microsoft’s founder and former boss Bill Gates in terms of personal wealth, but the impact of the two companies is radically different in nature.

There are still countless alternatives to online shopping on Amazon today, but there are very few to Microsoft’s computer operating systems. Moreover, with the excellent performance of their latest editions, being Windows 10 for personal computers and Windows Server 2016 for big machines, the company has shown that despite passing criticism from time to time, it is here to stay and is highly dependable.

As to Facebook, with all due respect to Mark Zuckerberg, and without diminishing the importance of the social network, its business impact cannot be compared to the other four of the group, this despite the growing income that advertising on Facebook is generating.

Based on the above I would sort the acronym to be updated as MAGAF, as in Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook; but apparently it is not up to me.

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Sunday 19 November 2017

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