Because we’re human, we tend to feel emotionally toward humans—as well as groups of humans, including tech companies. Some we like, some we don’t, and some we’re indifferent toward or unknowledgeable about. It’s largely subjective, but not completely.
The five most well-known tech companies among consumers today arguably are Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and IBM. First, the objective information: IBM has the most full-time employees, with 431,000, followed by Microsoft with 99,000, Apple with 80,000, Google with 48,000, and Facebook with 6,800.
Of the five, according to their latest fiscal years, Apple has the most revenue and highest profits, $171 billion and $37 billion respectively. This is followed in revenue by IBM at $100 billion, with profits of $16 billion, though Microsoft’s profits are higher at $22 billion against revenue of $78 billion. Google has revenue of $60 billion and profits of $13 billion, while Facebook has revenue of $8 billion and profits of $1.5 billion.
Microsoft lost its way a bit with the release of its latest operating system, Windows 8, which has an interface more suited to tablet computers, without traditional keyboards, than desktop or laptop computers. This move has been nearly universally derided, with the sharpest opposition coming from corporate buyers.
Following a recent email by new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to staffers, Microsoft is expected to lay off employees. Nadella said the company needs to “rediscover our soul” by moving beyond strictly selling software such as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office and to “develop leaner business processes.”
As the developer of MS-DOS and the primary mover behind IBM-compatible computers, Microsoft is widely respected for its centrality. It has used its marketing muscle in the past, however, to stifle competition, sometimes illegally. The company doesn’t engender a lot of love.
Apple, on the other hand, has been forging ahead, leveraging its passionate loyalty among buyers as well as its design genius, particularly in the burgeoning mobile devices market. The iPhone, iPad, and iPod have redefined their respective spaces. Apple also does a stellar job with product quality and support, repeatedly earning top scores in user surveys.
Where Apple falls short is pricing and competition. Its products often carry a stiff premium. It also has a well-documented history of trying to stifle competition.
Google has long been a darling of internet users, providing as it does an ever-expanding list of free products that often wind up being regarded as best in their category. Google made its name with its search engine, and among other of its category-leading products are email, mapping, and cloud office suites.
Because Google gives away so much, its business model relies heavily on advertising. Google has received criticism for the obtrusiveness of its ads and the way it follows people, particularly with Google+, its social media site.
Along with its fast-paced innovation, Google also has a history of discontinuing products whose advertising doesn’t pay for their costs quickly enough, which can rile the satisfied users of those products.
Facebook is a company that some people love and others love to hate. It’s the largest social media site in the world, claiming more than a billion active users, about one-seventh of the world’s population, though this number is likely exaggerated. It can be a great way to keep in touch with people.
Throughout its history Facebook has been aggressive in claiming the content you post to its site as its own and in taking a fast-and-loose approach to privacy. As a free site, it bombards you with ads. It also has a way of changing its interface, which is anything but simple, too often for many users, forcing you to learn new ways.
Facebook and Google sell data about your surfing habits to ad networks so they can target ads to your interests. This isn’t necessarily bad. A relevant ad is better than an irrelevant ad, provided that the intrusiveness doesn’t cross the line, however that line is defined.
IBM has been around longer than the other companies mentioned here. It started its life as a provider of solutions to large organizations, and it has returned to that role. But in 1981 it legitimized the personal computer with the introduction of the IBM PC.
The company has since exited the personal computer space, selling its laptop and desktop PC business in 2005 to the Chinese company Lenovo. Since then Lenovo has grown from the world’s third largest PC maker to the largest. But IBM has retained a soft spot in many people’s hearts for its groundbreaking work.
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.