We love technology companies almost as much as the products and services they provide. We covet technology stocks and IPOs, we're fascinated by their origin stories and inventive CEOs, and we envy their distinctive work cultures. Some days, it even seems we elevate tech companies to the status of countries.
Which got me thinking, which countries do the top technology companies most resemble?
The dominance of Microsoft products since the 80s and the gradual erosion of market share to rivals like Apple, Google, and others parallels the ascendancy and flattening of U.S. economic might. To be sure, both Microsoft and the United States remain formidable with significant capital and resources, but one wonders if their best days are behind them. Is the American Century synonymous with the apex of Windows 95?
They are the elephants in the room. China has a population approaching 1.4 billion and Facebook now has more than 800 million active accounts. Both are walled gardens of sorts and have taken steps to curtail openness and a free-flow of information and ideas. Both are smart and will absolutely play huge roles in shaping the future of the web. Like it or not they are here to stay.
There's a fusion of expert technical competency and simplicity that surrounds Google's core products and summons immediate comparisons with Japan. Both Google and Japan provide world-class products that are extremely functional and simple. Think Google search and Toyota, or AdWords and Sony. Google and Japan also both have distinctive cultures that evoke strong interest and yearning from the outside. Many want to get inside, but few are called to Mountain View or Tokyo.
2011 marked IBM's 100th year, and one can argue that no other technology company has been as inventive and adaptable. Germany, with its strong economy, high-quality workforce, and innovation is a clear counterpart. There's VW and Siri, German wind energy and IBM's social business strategy. IBM may have advanced the notion of a "smarter planet", but Germany more than qualifies as a resident.
Though it's tempting to align SAP with Germany where the software company is headquartered, I favor a comparison with France. Both SAP and France are quiet leaders in their respective spaces. Neither inspire polemic headlines, but both continue to prosper, even through the recent global downturn and European financial crisis.
With trusted, reputable products, Oracle invites comparisons to the United Kingdom, and all the institutions in that country we've come to take for granted. Whether it's an Oracle RDMS or PeopleSoft, there's a sense of stability and reliability that evoke the Bank of England or Buckingham Palace. Additionally, Oracle and the U.K. both share a strong focus on science and technology.
Brazil is one of the world's fastest growing economies, with expansive business development and economic reform spurring the country to new prosperity. The trend of innovation is most comparable to Apple, which — despite the loss of its beloved leader, Steve Jobs — looks to be on a path of unprecedented success. As of this writing, Brazil is now the world's 6th largest economy (overtaking the U.K. in 2011) and Apple is ranked #35 on the Fortune 500 list. Both entities seem likely to continue growing this year, but one wonders if they're both close to tipping points.
Depending on your orientation and bias, we are approaching a rebirth or the nadir for Yahoo! and Italy. The problems of both entities have been well publicized: Italy with its stagnation, debt, and structural problems, and Yahoo! with its leadership problems and blurry strategic roadmap. What's not clear is whether the country and company can reverse course.
Twitter and India are both changing the world. The software service has become the "SMS of the Internet" and has been used to organize protests and impact social change. India has emerged as the world's most populous democracy and has revolutionized outsourcing and how we do business. At the same time, both Twitter and India are still maturing and working through tough challenges around infrastructure, scalability, and transparency.
Even before NAFTA became law in 1994, there was strong economic cooperation between the United States and Canada. Thus, it follows that Dell most resembles Canada. Just as Canada has benefited from a close relationship with its southern neighbor, so too has the Texas-based American computer company prospered by its ties to Microsoft. The parallel holds up even as Canada and Dell have both in recent years begun to loosen ties with their larger sibling.
Amazon and Russia are both doing very well and invite comparisons. Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world, and Russia is a top ten economy with significant resources and purchasing power. Both Amazon and Russia continue to grow and will play major roles in how all of us buy and sell online and consume energy. Additionally, both entities have been regularly criticized from various sources for their actions. Finally, part of the modern story of Amazon and Russia has been the guiding hand of firm, detail-oriented leaders, specifically Jeff Bezos and Vladimir Putin.
Steady and successful applies to both Adobe and Australia. Though not as large as some other companies or technology companies, Adobe and Australia are both highly-developed, stable, and well-respected. Visual beauty also links the two, from Australia's picturesque landscape to the design ethos of Adobe.
Companies in all fields rise and fall, and technology companies are no different. As I was compiling this list, I couldn't help but consider how this list would be different if it was five, ten, or fifteen years ago. Remember Netscape, America Online, MySpace, and Gateway? No doubt, there will be newcomers in a few years. Might Zynga, Foursquare, or Spotify replace some of tech companies on this list? Which companies make your list?
This post was originally published on 12 Most on February 21, 2012. The original post can be found here: http://12most.com/2012/02/21/comparisons-technology-companies-to-countries/