Randal C. Picker on the Future of Big Tech

Big Tech, Antitrust, and the Future of Regulation: 3 Questions to Randy Picker

Big tech companies are performing well during the crisis, while many of their smaller or more traditional competitors are going out of business. Do you think that the Covid-19 crisis will strengthen big tech in the long term?

"I don’t think we know what’s going to be sticky and what’s not going to be. For example, I’m obviously intensely aware of my own behaviour and the behaviour of my family. We’re basically doing all of our shopping online now, and that includes contactless pick-up deliveries at Walmart where you don’t have to go into the store. In Jeff Bezos’ written testimony for the recent Congressional hearing, he talks about that as an important Walmart advantage. After we have a vaccine, will we continue to shop online? I don’t know. But it’s worked to Walmart’s advantage and against Amazon for us. I think my Google use is exactly the same as before the pandemic, and personally I’ve been using Facebook less. So I think the main question is how people are evaluating and reevaluating their relationships with these firms, and how sticky those changes will be. For example, we’ve bought things like toilet paper in bulk from wholesalers, because when businesses closed they were happy to sell to anyone who would buy. But the question is, will we continue to do that after the pandemic is over?

We’re going to lose a lot of small companies, which is a tragedy. I’ve seen that happening in Chicago. But that’s not always about Amazon or Facebook or the big tech companies. It’s just about who has the resources to survive the medical and economic calamity. I think there will be a shift towards bigger companies more generally, but I don’t know if that will disproportionately be big tech."

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