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Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook: Who will win the tech war?

NEW YORK ? As the tech war continues between four of the industry?s biggest players ? Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook ? data will be the deciding factor for which company wins.

During the ?The new power brokers: How Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Amazon are changing the game, and how brands and agencies should respond? panel at ad:tech, industry experts debated on which company holds the most power. The panel also presented a look at how much control and power the four companies have and how brands can best leverage their resources to work with each company. 

?The four companies vying for control is a validation of the Apple model where if you try to control the ecosystem and give users a seamless experience, you lock them in,? said Molly Wood, executive editor at, San Francisco.

?Every company is trying to create a device choice that locks into a lifestyle,? she said.

Battle wars
Joy Marcus, venture partner at DFJ Gotham Ventures, New York, also spoke on the panel.

?There is a movement towards a closed ecosystem right now, which has a risk of no innovation,? Ms. Marcus said.

In particular, Ms. Marcus said that Apple is an example of a company that keeps a tight grip on their products but is still trying to encourage a collaborative environment for developers with its app market.

For advertisers, the restrictions the four companies put on innovation can be difficult to work around.

?The reality is more than 46 percent of digital advertising is controlled by Google,? said Michael Hayes, Los Angeles-based president of Initiative Digital Worldwide.

?Google has been powerful and successful because it is relevant and open to advertisers,? he said.

?Android as an ad platform is where Google will move the machine and we expect it to be powerful.?

As an example, Mr. Hayes used Apple?s iAds, which have strict limitations for ad creative, to compare to Facebook?s advertising platform that is making up its own set of rules.

?When Apple gets its feet under the hood with what drives ad dollars, they will start opening up the company?s boundaries,? Mr. Hayes said. Ms. Wood agrees that Google has a real opportunity with Android, especially with mobile payments.

Ms. Wood said that if carriers get on board with Google Wallet, Google will have the ability to cross pollinate and reach more consumers with its app-based service.

Ms. Wood also spoke about Amazon?s new tablet innovations and how it could push the company into the high ranks of mobile.

?The Kindle Fire cemented Amazon?s tablet plan and basically created a new device market with a seven-inch device that is low cost,? Ms. Wood said.

However, DFJ Gotham Ventures? Ms. Marcus disagrees that Amazon is a prime player in the tech world right now, especially for small businesses wanting to latch on to new platforms.

?I don?t see a lot of companies talking about Amazon with a level of innovation, but that is where its cloud service plays a big part in the company,? Ms. Marcus said. Ms. Wood hopes that advancements with HTML5 will help advertisers and marketers find a way to leverage their creative resources while still reaching as many consumers as possible.

?There are new rules for ad models on these platforms, but it is bad for advertisers,? Ms. Wood said.

?Everyone loses when you pick a winner,? she said.

?The hope with HTML5 is that it will save us from a fragmented universe that is bad for innovation, developers and consumers.?

Data is king
Doug Weaver, founder/CEO of Upstream Group, Shelburne, VT, moderated the panel.

According to Mr. Weaver, the future of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple will rely heavily on data and which company is most successful at getting it.

In particular, social will play a large role in getting data, which is something Google is already working on with its social network Google+.

But is Google?s need to buy and dabble into every digital initiative dangerous to the tech world? And more importantly, is there a company that the government will not let Google buy? Ms. Wood does not think the government will let Google buy a television network. 

?If Google or Apple can streamline TV content, include original content and combine it with Web-like analytics, the number of targeted ad opportunities are unlimited,? Ms. Wood said.

DFJ Gotham Ventures? Ms. Marcus said that although TV is the elephant in the room in the tech world, the industry will see new innovations with programs such as TV Everywhere.

?The next generation of content consumers are not tethered to a cable system,? Ms. Marcus said.

However, in order for the shift to happen to more mobile advertising, agencies and companies need to realize the shift and the new system of measurement.

?Advertisers still view measurement mechanisms differently than the new order of connected devices,? said Initiative Digital Worldwide?s Mr. Hayes.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York