Disruption is good, or so they say. But right now, there seem to be many different and powerful forces at work that will reshape many of the industries we have grown used to.
For one thing, the brakes have been slammed down on globalisation and free trade. The US seems to up the ante on a daily basis when it comes to trying to crush Chinese companies. Huawei is obviously the best reported case, with the US influence being seen in the UK but, divisively, not in France, who is saying they will use Huawei technology and Germany, who is saying they will use the best technology for the job. The UK has back-tracked and security services are warning against using the company.
More recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that people should use short form video app TikTok, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Bearing in mind that TikTok is not even available in China and the company’s stand on the issue is that “we have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” then you do begin to see some of the American ‘policies’ looking much like a petulant 13 year old.
The trouble is, strong, blinkered views have a habit of causing real disruption if the bully is big enough and has enough followers.
It is not only the squashing of free trade that is causing disruption at the moment. The payments industry is facing a real shake up. In the EU, at least 20 major banks have announced a new payments system that will not use Mastercard or Visa. Called PEPSI for Pan European Payment System Initiative (that must have made some marketing people feel wind swept and interesting) it potentially could cause huge disruption, not to mention quite a dent in the bank balances of Mastercard and Visa.
Big tech companies are also eyeing smaller companies succeeding in the spotlight of the pandemic and, for instance, Jio has launched a beta version of JioMeet. While success story Zoom is based on a freemium model, JioMeets is free and can host meetings for up to 24 hours straight.
What will become of Zoom remains to be seen, but the wise money would probably say that it will be bought quite soon.
Meanwhile, to further the disruption, protests and boycotts seem to be pretty fashionable at the moment and Facebook is facing the social media version of a peaceful protest from a powerful group of advertisers.
Whether the campaign against Facebook is driven by a sudden social conscience on the part of companies like Verizon, Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever or whether it is an excuse to cut advertising budgets in difficult times remains to be seen. And whether Facebook can carry on with the support of small and medium sized companies (who are presumably facing the same budget dilemmas) also remains to be seen.
But Facebook’s business model now looks untenable as the company believes it to be a platform and regulators increasingly believe it to be a publishing company, with the regulations, checks and balances that being a publisher involves.
And if that was not enough to stir the increasingly liquid pot of disruption, the four biggest tech companies, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon face a grilling before the US Congress. And the conversation will be about whether they are too big to exist in their current form – not too disruptive or innovative.
Disruption was with us before the pandemic changed the game, but COVID-19 has certainly influenced some major and seismic shifts in several of our favourite industries. What those industries will look like in a year or two, when we walk out into the sunlight, blinking, is pretty much anyone’s guess.