Google, Amazon and other companies are well-known to all, but less well known is the extent of their activities and projects. The BATX though, their Chinese competitors, still have to make a name for themselves beyond the borders of the Middle Kingdom. Let’s run the rule over nine of the world’s tech leaders.
The e-commerce site founded by Jack Ma has crushed all national competition but, perhaps more significantly, has gotten a foothold beyond China's borders. At $485 billion in 2016, the total amount of sales recorded on Alibaba’s sites were much higher than Amazon's ($136 billion) and made the company the leading global distributor thanks to its two platforms, Taobao and Tmall. Alibaba has extended its scope to the cloud and, through its subsidiary Ant Financial, to payment solutions as well. Its online payment service, Alipay, has nearly 550 million users.
- Leader: Jack Ma
- Year established: 1999
- Market capitalization: $380,506 million
- Turnover: $39.9 million (2017)
Alphabet’s origin can be traced back to the Google search engine. Created in 1998, a myriad of services and applications including messaging (Gmail), mapping (Google Maps), office suite (Google Drive) and video streaming (YouTube), essentially financed by advertising. Google has also established itself as a major player in the smartphone market with its Android operating system. Simultaneously, the group has set up several subsidiaries including X, which carries out countless projects around artificial intelligence, drones and autonomous cars, Calico, which specializes in biotechnologies and Nest Labs, specializing in connected objects for home usage. In 2015, a new entity, Alphabet, was created to oversee all of the conglomerate’s activities.
- Leader: Larry Page
- Year established: 1998 for Google, 2015 for Alphabet
- Market capitalization: $750 million
- Turnover: $109.6 million (2017)
An e-commerce giant, Amazon is also the world leader in cloud-based products with its Amazon Web Services division, and of voice-controlled assistants with Alexa who is equipped within Echo's connected speakers. Jeff Bezos' company invests in various technologies – robotics, drones, AI – capable of improving its services and the delivery of its products. At the end of 2017, the group announced the $13.4 billion takeover of the US chain of organic food stores Whole Foods, marking its entry into an area it has long been accused of destroying - physical stores. In France, since 2018, Amazon has been offering the delivery of Monoprix products to Paris subscribers of Amazon Prime.
- Leader: Jeff Bezos
- Year established: 1994
- Market capitalization: $810.07 million
- Turnover: $177.87 million (2017)
The company created by Steve Jobs has a raft the inventions that have become iconic; the Macintosh computer, the iPhone and, let’s not forget, the iPad. In addition to hardware, Apple has implemented an ecosystem integrating an operating system for its computers and mobile devices (MacOs and iOS), platforms for movie downloads, as well as series and music (iTunes Store) applications (App Store), a payment system (Apple Pay) and even a cloud (iCloud). Despite its success, Apple has seen, since the end of 2018, its stock market buffeted by disappointing iPhone sales, allowing Microsoft and Amazon to fight for the first place in world capitalization.
- Leader: Tim Cook
- Year established: 1976
- Market capitalization: $715.37 million
- Turnover: $229 million (2017)
With 650 million monthly users, the most used search engine in China is also the fourth most visited site in the world. The main player of the Chinese Web, Baidu has diversified its activities towards video hosting (thanks to the iQiyi platform, very closely resembling the services offered by Netflix), mapping and online payment. Since 2017, the company has focused its R&D efforts on artificial intelligence and autonomous cars.
- Leader: Robin Li
- Year established: 2000
- Market capitalization: $56.95 million
- Turnover: $13.25 million
The social network founded in 2004 claims more than 2.3 billion monthly active users worldwide and has continued to expand its power by becoming a media of influence. In 2012, Facebook strengthened its grip on the social media sector by buying rival Instagram; the photo and video sharing app that has a billion users. Mark Zuckerberg's group invests in artificial intelligence to improve the services of its social networks through facial recognition and personal assistants etc. The company has also bet big on virtual reality, producing various iterations Oculus VR headset since 2014.
- Leader: Mark Zuckerberg
- Year established: 2004
- Market capitalization: $409.6 million
- Turnover: $40.6 million (2017)
As publisher of the Windows operating system and the Office suite, Microsoft has managed to break out of a business model that was almost entirely based on the PC market by diversifying into the cloud (Azure), tablets (Surface), smartphones (Lumia), personal assistants (Cortana), video games (Xbox), mixed reality (HoloLens helmet) and investing heavily in artificial intelligence. This strategy allowed it to get back on the podium of the world's largest capitalizations.
- Leader: Satya Nadella
- Year established: 1975
- Market capitalization: $789.25 million
- Turnover: $110 million (2018)
The company's leading service, WeChat mobile messaging, has more than a billion users. It has multiplied its features of which one of the most used is WeChat Pay, a mobile instant payment solution. Tencent also offers streaming services, instant messaging with QQ instant messenger, social networks and mobile games with Honor of Kings, the most played game in China. In December 2018, its music streaming subsidiary, Tencent Music, was listed on Wall Street for $1.1 billion.
- Leader: Pony Ma
- Year of creation: 1998
- Market capitalization: $398.03 million
- Turnover: $34.5 million (2017)
In less than a decade, the Chinese smartphone maker has become one of the world's top five, thanks to its Apple-inspired designs. Since 2014, Xiaomi had to face the competition of manufacturers like Huawei in its domestic market but managed to sell its phones throughout the rest of the world thanks to a very aggressive price policy. In addition to smartphones, the group offers a wide range of products, with the same strategy of cheap prices, ranging from bikes with connected speakers to scooters and household robots. In 2019 Xiaomi is expected to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and aims for a valuation exceeding $100 billion.
- Leader: Lei Jun
- Year established: 2010
- Market capitalization: non-listed
- Turnover: $16.5 million
You can find our other articles on the GAFA and BATX by clicking on following links:
- GAFA vs BATX: To Rule Them All
- Annie Guo (Silkpay): "The fintech revolution is being led by Chinese companies."
- Huawei Executive Arrest: The 5G War Gets Serious
- Alphabet: From Software to Hardware
- The BATX: Under the Influence of the Middle Kingdom
- Making Cents of It All
- Tech and the Stock Exchange: Mutual Dependency