Why have companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com, or VMware been so envied by competitors and partners over the years? And how have they come to command the lion’s share of customers’ business in their main categories? Part of the answer lies in their pursuit of Power balanced with a suitable focus on Performance, the essential corollary to Power as a lever for sustained success. In essence, companies like these have built a powerful franchise in at least one major product category where they dominate, which gives them “gorilla” power. Most companies can only dream of this type of success, largely because most entrepreneurs, CEOs, and management teams find themselves over-stretched by the demands of Performance – managing existing commitments – and thus unable to play for Power. Applying just one of these two levers is not sufficient – it is critical to play for both. Whenever companies neglect one over the other, they are quickly penalized by customers, investors, and/or partners, as we’ll see in this post.
Two far-reaching and inter-locking decisions are pending in Washington: Approval of the proposed Comcast/Time Warner cable/broadband merger, and a decision on whether or not to maintain the policy of net neutrality. With the stark exception of Netflix whose CEO, Reed Hastings, who has spoken out against the merger, traditional media companies like Disney, Viacom, HBO and Univision and video streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu have remained disconcertingly silent, apparently intimidated by Comcast’s bullying tactics. As for net neutrality, it is looking increasingly likely that despite attempts by the FCC to soothe consumer concerns, internet broadband will be separated into fast and slow lanes based on differentiated pricing of what has hitherto been a public utility. Where will these controversial issues end up? Will businesses of all sizes as well as consumers have equal access to internet broadband? Or will cable and broadband become the sandbox of one dominant corporation?