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Posts Tagged ‘network economies’

Up in the cloud

Cloud computing is growing rapidly and has started to dominate many parts of the IT market. Cloud revenues are rising at around 25% per year and, according to Jeremy Duke of Synergy Research Group:

“Major barriers to cloud adoption are now almost a thing of the past, especially on the public-cloud side. Cloud technologies are now generating massive revenues for technology vendors and cloud service providers, and yet there are still many years of strong growth ahead.”

The market leader in cloud services (as opposed to cloud hardware) is Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon. At the end of 2016, it had a market share of around 40%, larger than the next three competitors (Microsoft, Google and IBM), combined. AWS originated cloud computing some 10 years ago. It is set to have generated revenue of $13 billion in 2016.

The cloud computing services market is an oligopoly, with a significant market leader, AWS. But is the competition from other players in the market, including IT giants, such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, enough to guarantee that the market stays competitive and that prices will fall as technology improves and costs fall?

Certainly all the major players are investing heavily in new services, better infrastructure and marketing. And they are already established suppliers in other sectors of the IT market. Microsoft and Google, in particular, are strong contenders to AWS. Nevertheless, as the first article states:

Neither Google nor Microsoft have an easy task since AWS will continue to be an innovation machine with a widely recognized brand among the all-important developer community. Both Amazon’s major competitors have an opportunity to solidify themselves as strong alternatives in what is turning into a public cloud oligopoly.

Articles
While Amazon dominates cloud infrastructure, an oligopoly is emerging. Which will buyers bet on? diginomica, Kurt Marko (16/2/17)
Study: AWS has 45% share of public cloud infrastructure market — more than Microsoft, Google, IBM combined GeekWire, Dan Richman (31/10/16)
Cloud computing revenues jumped 25% in 2016, with strong growth ahead, researcher says GeekWire, Dan Richman (4/1/17)

Data
Press releases Synergy Research Group

Questions

  1. Distinguish the different segments of the cloud computing market.
  2. What competitive advantages does AWS have over its major rivals?
  3. What specific advantages does Microsoft have in the cloud computing market?
  4. Is the amount of competition in the cloud computing market enough to prevent the firms from charging excessive prices to their customers? How might you assess what is ‘excessive’?
  5. What barriers to entry are there in the cloud computing market? Should they be a worry for competition authorities?
  6. Are the any network economies in cloud computing? What might they be?
  7. Cloud computing is a rapidly developing industry (for example, the relatively recent development of cloud containers). How does the speed of development impact on competition?
  8. How would market saturation affect competition and the behaviour of the major players?
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Breaking free from the Office

Microsoft’s Office suite is the market leader in the multi-billion dollar office software market. Although an oligopoly, thanks to strong network economies Microsoft has a virtual monopoly in many parts of the market. Network economies occur when it saves money and/or time for people to use the same product (software, in this case), especially within an organisation, such as a company or a government.

Despite the rise of open-source software, such as Apache’s OpenOffice and Google Docs, Microsoft’s Office products, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, still dominate the market. But are things about to change?

The UK government has announced that it will seek to abandon reliance on Microsoft Office in the public sector. Provided there are common standards within and across departments, it will encourage departments to use a range of software products, using free or low-cost alternatives to Microsoft products where possible. This should save hundreds of millions of pounds.

Will other governments around the world and other organisations follow suit? There is a lot of money to be saved on software costs. But will switching to alternatives impose costs of its own and will these outweigh the costs saved?

UK government to abandon Microsoft “oligopoly” for open source software Digital Spy, Mayer Nissim (29/1/14)
No, the government isn’t dumping Office, but it does want to start seeing other people ZDNet, Nick Heath (29/1/14)
UK government once again threatens to ditch Microsoft Office The Verge, Tom Warren (29/1/14)
UK government to abandon Microsoft Office in favour of open-source software PCR, Matthew Jarvis (29/1/14)
UK government plans switch from Microsoft Office to open source The Guardian (29/1/14)
Open source push ‘could save taxpayer millions’ The Telegraph, Matthew Sparkes (30/1/14)
Will Google Docs kill off Microsoft Office? CNN Money, Adrian Covert (13/11/13)

Questions

  1. Why has Microsoft retained a virtual monopoly of the office software market? How relevant are network economies to the decision of organisations and individuals not to switch?
  2. Identify other examples of network economies and how they impact on competition.
  3. How do competitors to Microsoft attempt to overcome the resistance of people to switching to their office software?
  4. What methods does Microsoft use to try to retain its position of market dominance?
  5. How does Apple compete with Microsoft in the office software market?
  6. What factors are likely to determine the success of Google Docs in capturing significant market share from Microsoft Office?
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Online SMEs come of age

‘eBay has declared that Britain’s small businesses have “come of age” online, after reporting that the number of its traders who are turning over £1m a year had nearly doubled over the last 12 months.’

So begins the linked article below from the Guardian. Unlike other small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), many of which did not survive the recession, the number of successful online SMEs is increasing and their survival rates are generally high. According to eBay, some 25,000 people have set up business on its site since the recession and it is predicted that 127 will have a turnover of over £1 million in 2010 (up from 66 in 2009).

So what is it about the online environment that helps small business to develop and thrive? Does going down the e-commerce route avoid many of the pitfalls of traditional business models? And does it have any specific pitfalls of its own? Read the articles below and then attempt the questions that follow.

eBay doubles number of traders with turnover above £1m Guardian, Graeme Wearden (21/8/10)
Why e-commerce IPOs will soon be the smarter buy VentureBeat, Owen Thomas (18/8/10)
Small businesses prosper in eBay’s millionaires’ club InternetRetailing, Chloe Rigby (21/8/10)
Ecommerce technology is retail investment priority: report InternetRetailing, Chloe Rigby (13/8/10)
Move into ecommerce could transform the Scottish economy Sunday Herald, Colin Donald (22/8/10)
Small businesses ‘tend to be a risk’ to lenders BBC Today Programme (23/8/10)

Questions

  1. What advantages does e-commerce have for SMEs: (a) in the startup phase; (b) over the long term?
  2. What are meant by ‘network economies’? Does eBay offer such economies to SMEs?
  3. Follow the links in the above articles to study the experience of two specific online SMEs and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business strategies.
  4. What considerations might an SME take into account that is currently trading on eBay or Amazon in deciding whether to set up its own website and trade directly from that?
  5. Why may a move into e-commerce prove particularly beneficial to the Scottish economy? Would this apply to all online SMEs or only certain types?
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Changes in the Office

Whilst a new version of Windows may make the headlines, it’s not Windows that is the main source of profit for Microsoft: it’s Office, with it’s suite of appplications – Word for word processing, Excel for spreadsheets, PowerPoint for presentations, Access for databases, FrontPage for web pages and Outlook for e-mail. But Office is under threat from two sources.

First, despite that fact that Microsoft’s share of the office applications market has remained fairly constant at around 94%, it is facing increased competition from free alternatives, such as Google docs and Google Apps, and OpenOffice from Oracle (see also).

Second, the demands of users are changing. With the growing use of social networking and file sharing, and with a more mobile and dispersed workforce, Microsoft Office needs to adapt to this new environment.

With the launch of Office 2010, these issues are being addressed. The following articles examine what Microsoft has done and whether it is a good business model

Microsoft Office 2010 takes aim at Google Docs BBC News (11/5/10)
Office 2010: banking on Apps Sydney Morning Herald, David Flynn (11/5/10)
Microsoft’s two-pronged strategy for Office 2010 BBC News, Tim Weber (12/5/10)
Revamped Microsoft Office Will Be Free on the Web New York Times, Ashlee Vance (11/5/10)
Microsoft Predicts Fastest-Ever Adoption of New Office Software Bloomberg Businessweek, Dina Bass (12/5/10)

Questions

  1. Discuss the business logic of giving away products free.
  2. Discuss the likely success of Microsoft’s response to the changing market conditions for office applications software.
  3. Explain what is meant by ‘cloud computing’. What opportunities does this provide to Microsoft and what are the threats?
  4. What is meant by ‘network economies’? How do these benefit Microsoft? How is Sharepoint relevant here?
  5. Are network economies likely to increase or decrease for Microsoft in the future?
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