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The Big Five: Largest Acquisitions by Tech Company

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Big Tech Company Acquisitions

The Big Five: Largest Acquisitions by Tech Company

The Big Five tech giants, or “FAAMG”—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google (Alphabet)—have a combined market capitalization of over $4 trillion.

These powerful tech behemoths often devour the talent, technology, or entire businesses of aspiring competitors. Given their financial weight, mergers and acquisitions have become a key tactic in maintaining their strong grip on tech supremacy.

Today’s Chart of the Week explores the world’s most powerful tech companies and their biggest acquisitions to date.

Which Acquisitions Were a Success?

While these tech giants may have had big aspirations for these exceedingly large deals, they have mixed success rates.

Microsoft

Microsoft made its big move 2016 to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, and it’s the most sizable acquisition by any of the Big Five tech companies.

Microsoft’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
LinkedIn (2016)$26.2 billionSocial Media
Skype (2011)$8.5 billionTelecommunications
GitHub (2018)$7.5 billionSoftware
Nokia (2014)$7.2 billionTelecommunications
aQuantive (2007)$6.3 billionMarketing

The LinkedIn deal was made due to the synergy between the two companies’ offerings, and Microsoft’s desire to gain access to LinkedIn’s 575 million members.

However, not all of Microsoft’s acquisitions have been as successful, such as its 2014 purchase of Nokia’s Devices & Services business for $7.2 billion. This seemed like a smart move at the time, considering the Finnish company held 41% of the global handset market.

Yet, Microsoft sold the asset for a mere $350 million just two years later. Microsoft shifted its strategy and exited the feature phone market, choosing to focus on a narrow, niche market for their hardware.

Amazon

Amazon has closed more than $20 billion in acquisitions and investments since 2017. This includes the purchase of Whole Foods, which Amazon bought for $13.7 billion, and is the company’s largest acquisition to date.

Amazon’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
Whole Foods (2017)$13.7 billionRetail
Zappos (2009)$1.2 billionRetail
Ring (2018)$1.2 billionTechnology
PillPack (2018)$1 billionPharmaceuticals
Twitch (2014)$970 millionSocial Media

From purchases to bolster the AI of smart assistant Alexa, to Wi-Fi enabled doorbell Ring, recent additions clearly show the company intends to cement its presence in people’s homes.

After acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon began offering store discounts to Prime customers, in an attempt to bundle its home offerings and provide a more holistic customer experience.

Alphabet

Alphabet has made several daring moves into the hardware and data science sectors. The company’s biggest acquisition was Motorola, which it bought in 2012 for $12.5 billion.

Alphabet’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
Motorola (2012)$12.5 billionTelecommunications
Nest (2014)$3.2 billionTechnology
DoubleClick (2007)$3.1 billionMarketing
Looker (2019)$2.6 billionSoftware
YouTube (2006)$1.7 billionSocial Media

However, the purchase of Motorola was a bet that didn’t pay off. Alphabet sold off much of Motorola’s assets for less than $3 billion in 2014, a little less than two years after it had originally acquired it.

Alphabet continues to consolidate its acquisitions in order to simplify its organizational structure. DoubleClick, acquired in 2007, merged with Google Analytics 360 Suite under the Google Marketing Platform—making it easier for marketers to access their metrics using one platform.

Apple

Out of the Big Five companies, Apple has the fewest acquisitions over $1 billion. Its largest purchase was for Beats Electronics, which it acquired for $3 billion in 2014.

Apple’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
Beats (2014)$3 billionMusic
Dialog Semiconductor (2018)$600 millionManufacturing
Anobit (2011)$500 millionManufacturing
Shazam (2017)$400 millionMusic
NeXT Computer (1996)$400 millionTechnology

Apple’s increasing music streaming efforts have been evident, with the acquisition of Shazam three years after it purchased Beats Electronics.

In an intriguing recent turn of events, Apple recently announced it will acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. This $1 billion deal will allow Apple to build all of its devices in-house, and better prepare the iPhone for the upcoming 5G push.

Facebook

Facebook’s largest acquisition has been WhatsApp Messenger, which it purchased for $22 billion in 2014. The WhatsApp acquisition is the second largest of the Big Five, following Microsoft’s LinkedIn purchase.

Facebook’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
WhatsApp (2014)$22 billionSocial Media
Oculus (2014)$2 billionTechnology
Instagram (2012)$1 billionSocial Media
LiveRail (2014)$500 millionMarketing
Onavo (2013)$200 millionAnalytics

Aside from absorbing any competitors who encroach on Facebook’s turf—such as WhatsApp and Instagram—Facebook’s takeovers have been aimed at venturing into uncharted territory. The acquisition of virtual reality manufacturer, Oculus, is evidence of Facebook’s bet on virtual reality as the future of engagement.

“After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, or studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world —just by putting on goggles in your home.”

—Mark Zuckerberg

Predicting the Next Shift

The Big Five are some of the most influential companies in the world today.

Beyond rapidly reshaping the global tech landscape, these acquisitions provide important context on how tech companies consolidate power—and, more importantly, what will fuel their next phase of growth.

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Bitcoin is Near All-Time Highs and the Mainstream Doesn’t Care…Yet

As bitcoin charges towards all-time highs, search interest is relatively low. How much attention has bitcoin’s recent rally gotten?

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Bitcoin Near All-Time Highs vs. Search Interest

Just about every financial asset saw a huge drop in March, but few have had the spectacular recovery that bitcoin has had since then.

Up more than 300% from the March lows, bitcoin is within $1,000 of its all-time high ($19,891) established three years ago. While 2017’s run-up saw a huge surge in Google searches, interest this time around is less than a quarter of what it was back then.

This graphic overlays bitcoin’s price changes against Google search interest for “bitcoin” between 2017-Nov 2020, showing the muted relative search interest for its recent rally. Despite Google search interest being low, it is turning upwards, potentially hinting at a rise to cap off 2020.

Nobody’s Searching? Maybe Bitcoin is Already Mainstream

Bitcoin’s mainstream attention in 2017 was exceptional, and was likely the first time many people had even heard about the digital asset.

After doing all of their Google research back then, it’s possible that the general population is now well aware of the cryptocurrency and doesn’t need to search up the basics again. Add to this that bitcoin is now easily purchasable through popular services like Robinhood and Paypal, and you have fewer people who need Google to figure out the intricacies of bitcoin wallets and transactions.

While people might not be searching for information on bitcoin, the media has certainly picked up on its movement over the past year. Mainstream coverage regarding the cryptocurrency is currently at a relative all-time high for the past 12 months.

Mainstream Media Mentions of Bitcoin

Even if current mainstream coverage isn’t far from previous peaks, it’s still likely that people are seeing an increase in bitcoin content in their news feeds following the recent surge.

This rally is also attracting increased talk on social media sites like Twitter. That said, while there has been a rise in the volume of bitcoin-related tweets in November 2020, numbers are still quite low compared to the amount of tweets in 2017.

Tweets mentioning Bitcoin

Daily tweet volume reached above 60,000 recently, but is still far from the +100,000 daily tweets that were being sent at the top of 2017’s bull run.

Where in the World is Google Search Interest for Bitcoin?

Even if worldwide search interest isn’t as high as it was in 2017, there is one country where bitcoin is being googled more now: Nigeria.

Since 2015, the Nigerian Naira has lost more than 50% of its value against the U.S. dollar. This, coupled with the country’s high share of unbanked citizens means that alternative currencies and payment methods have steadily risen in popularity and utility.

Nigeria Bitcoin Google Search Trends

FinTech startups like Chipper Cash are providing Nigeria and other African nations with no-fee P2P payment services, along with the ability to trade bitcoin. The service is also beta testing the buying and selling of fractional shares of popular U.S. stocks.

Started up in 2018, Chipper Cash’s monthly payment values are now over $100 million, and the company has attracted investment from top VC funds like Bezos Expeditions as they provide a valuable service in an emerging market.

If Bitcoin is Mainstream, Where Does It Go From Here?

While bitcoin is proving itself to be a useful medium of exchange around the world, it’s still primarily a speculative asset. As 2020 saw massive increases in money supply across the board, bitcoin reacted best compared to other speculative assets, with its ascent to $19,000 almost completely uninterrupted since the $10,000 price area.

Time will tell if 2017 is set to repeat itself, or if bitcoin is getting ready to set new all-time highs going into 2021.

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50 Years of Gaming History, by Revenue Stream (1970-2020)

Visualizing 50 years of gaming history, from the first wave of arcades and home consoles to a tsunami of mobile gaming.

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Game-Revenue-Timeline---Shareable-Updated

50 Years of Gaming History, by Revenue Stream (1970-2020)

View a more detailed version of the above by clicking here

Every year it feels like the gaming industry sees the same stories—record sales, unfathomable market reach, and questions of how much higher the market can go.

We’re already far past the point of gaming being the biggest earning media sector, with an estimated $165 billion revenue generated in 2020.

But as our graphic above helps illustrate, it’s important to break down shifting growth within the market. Research from Pelham Smithers shows that while the tidal wave of gaming has only continued to swell, the driving factors have shifted over the course of gaming history.

1970–1983: The Pre-Crash Era

At first, there was Atari.

Early prototypes of video games were developed in labs in the 1960s, but it was Atari’s release of Pong in 1972 that helped to kickstart the industry.

The arcade table-tennis game was a sensation, drawing in consumers eager to play and companies that started to produce their own knock-off versions. Likewise, it was Atari that sold a home console version of Pong in 1975, and eventually its own Atari 2600 home console in 1977, which would become the first console to sell more than a million units.

In short order, the arcade market began to plateau. After dwindling due to a glut of Pong clones, the release of Space Invaders in 1978 reinvigorated the market.

Arcade machines started to be installed everywhere, and new franchises like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong drove further growth. By 1982, arcades were already generating more money than both the pop music industry and the box office.

1985–2000: The Tech Advancement Race

Unfortunately, the gaming industry grew too quickly to maintain.

Eager to capitalize on a growing home console market, Atari licensed extremely high budget ports of Pac-Man and a game adaptation of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. They were rushed to market, released in poor quality, and cost the company millions in returns and more in brand damage.

As other companies also looked to capitalize on the market, many other poor attempts at games and consoles caused a downturn across the industry. At the same time, personal computers were becoming the new flavor of gaming, especially with the release of the Commodore 64 in 1982.

It was a sign of what was to define this era of gaming history: a technological race. In the coming years, Nintendo would release the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) home console in 1985 (released in Japan as the Famicom), prioritizing high quality games and consistent marketing to recapture the wary market.

On the backs of games like Duck Hunt, Excitebike, and the introduction of Mario in Super Mario Bros, the massive success of the NES revived the console market.

Estimated Total Console Sales by Manufacturer (1970-2020)

ManufacturerHome Console salesHandheld Console SalesTotal Sales
Nintendo318 M430 M754 M
Sony445 M90 M535 M
Microsoft149 M-149 M
Sega64-67 M14 M81 M
Atari31 M1 M32 M
Hudson Soft/NEC10 M-10 M
Bandai-3.5 M3.5 M

Source: Wikipedia

Nintendo looked to continue its dominance in the field, with the release of the Game Boy handheld and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. At the same time, other competitors stepped in to beat them at their own game.

In 1988, arcade company Sega entered the fray with the Sega Mega Drive console (released as the Genesis in North America) and then later the Game Gear handheld, putting its marketing emphasis on processing power.

Electronics maker Sony released the PlayStation in 1994, which used CD-ROMs instead of cartridges to enhance storage capacity for individual games. It became the first console in history to sell more than 100 million units, and the focus on software formats would carry on with the PlayStation 2 (DVDs) and PlayStation 3 (Blu-rays).

Even Microsoft recognized the importance of gaming on PCs and developed the DirectX API to assist in game programming. That “X” branding would make its way to the company’s entry into the console market, the Xbox.

2001–Present: The Online Boom

It was the rise of the internet and mobile, however, that grew the gaming industry from tens of billions to hundreds of billions in revenue.

A primer was the viability of subscription and freemium services. In 2001, Microsoft launched the Xbox Live online gaming platform for a monthly subscription fee, giving players access to multiplayer matchmaking and voice chat services, quickly becoming a must-have for consumers.

Meanwhile on PCs, Blizzard was tapping into the Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) subscription market with the 2004 release of World of Warcraft, which saw a peak of more than 14 million monthly paying subscribers.

All the while, companies saw a future in mobile gaming that they were struggling to tap into. Nintendo continued to hold onto the handheld market with updated Game Boy consoles, and Nokia and BlackBerry tried their hands at integrating game apps into their phones.

But it was Apple’s iPhone that solidified the transition of gaming to a mobile platform. The company’s release of the App Store for its smartphones (followed closely by Google’s own store for Android devices) paved the way for app developers to create free, paid, and pay-per-feature games catered to a mass market.

Now, everyone has their eyes on that growing $85 billion mobile slice of the gaming market, and game companies are starting to heavily consolidate.

Major Gaming Acquisitions Since 2014

DateAcquirerTarget and SectorDeal Value (US$)
Apr. 2014FacebookOculus - VR$3 Billion
Aug. 2014AmazonTwitch - Streaming$970 Million
Nov. 2014MicrosoftMojang - Games$2.5 Billion
Feb. 2016Activision BlizzardKing - Games$5.9 Billion
Jun. 2016TencentSupercell - Games$8.6 Billion
Feb. 2020Embracer GroupSaber Interactive - Games$525 Million
Sep. 2020MicrosoftZeniMax Media - Games$7.5 Billion
Nov. 2020Take-Two InteractiveCodemasters - Games$994 Million

Console makers like Microsoft and Sony are launching cloud-based subscription services even while they continue to develop new consoles. Meanwhile, Amazon and Google are launching their own services that work on multiple devices, mobile included.

After seeing the success that games like Pokémon Go had on smartphones—reaching more than $1 billion in yearly revenue—and Grand Theft Auto V’s record breaking haul of $1 billion in just three days, companies are targeting as much of the market as they can.

And with the proliferation of smartphones, social media games, and streaming services, they’re on the right track. There are more than 2.7 billion gamers worldwide in 2020, and how they choose to spend their money will continue to shape gaming history as we know it.

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