Wednesday, April 29, 2015

點解美國科網企業咁犀利?

免費早餐 - 梁天卓
點解美國科網企業咁犀利?
2015年04月29日

Google首季盈利續升,廣告收入及總收入升11%及12%,盈利增4%。但人紅是非自然多。以Google為首科技霸權在歐美官司連連。欄友徐家健上周指歐美兩地競爭法執法機構雖對微軟和Google等科技霸權的反競爭行為進行調查及起訴,但兩地對該等行為的判決卻大相逕庭。在美國,微軟把Windows和Internet Explorer的捆綁銷售判得輕,對於Google疑似「搜尋偏袒」(search bias),執法部門花兩年調查後不了了之。相反歐盟先後向微軟罰款逾10億歐元,最近亦正式起訴Google。

陰謀論者認為歐盟對主要來自美國的科技霸權狠下辣手是要保護本土科網企業。但有兩點值得留意。歐盟倘為保護本土科網企業而對美帝科技霸權狠下辣手,這辣招究竟有冇用?在歐盟向微軟頒下巨額罰款後的今日,其Windows仍是電腦作業系統一哥,在歐洲市佔率仍近八成。近年成績雖跌,但「後起之秀」同來自美帝的蘋果MacOSX。另微軟的Internet Explorer在網頁瀏覽器市場雖節節敗退,但新貴如Google的Chrome和前身是Netscape的Firefox都來自美國。要以競爭法保護本土科網企業似乎難過登天。大家或問:點解美國科網企業咁犀利?美國反壟斷法比歐盟競爭法更有利物競天擇的市場規律應是原因之一。另一不容忽視原因是市場規模。市場夠大,固定成本可被量大的產出所攤分,減低企業平均營運成本。此外,科網行業比其他行業更依賴「網絡效應」(network effects),當大部分人都用微軟的Windows,你很難標奇立異。

歐美兩地規模相若,你或質疑美國科網企業咁犀利源於其市場規模較大。無疑歐美國民收入總值相若,以人口計,歐盟比美國大一點。但或出於語言問題,又或因歐盟國與國間的稅項或勞工法例及貿易不如美國州與州之間的貿易頻繁。經濟學人曾指在網上購物的歐洲人中,高達85%只在本國網上平台購物。開放市場不是閉關鎖國,是「保護」本土新科技正途。


作者為香港中文大學經濟系助理教授、亞太研究所經濟研究中心成員www.facebook.com/economics3.0
逢周一至五刊出

6 comments:

  1. well, generally saying that fixed cost is the most significant in IT projects is not accurate.....in fact in many IT projects, variable cost (salary for engineers/researchers, leasing cost for the hardware/cloud services, etc.) is the only cost.....you can do highly sophisticated, world-class algorithmic development on a 1000-euro desktop machine....fixed cost??

    And Firefox is an open source project, which means, its developers are distributed all over the world, one can hardly say FF is a piece of American software....

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    Replies
    1. First of all, where is the part of the article that says "fixed cost is the most significant in IT projects?"

      Second, if the engineers/researchers's input are mainly used to come up with the idea, why their salary isn't counted as fixed cost?

      Third, it's true that Firefox is an open source project, but the guys that initiated the Firefox project (Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt, and Blake Ross) are all Americans.

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    2. For your first point: sorry I read a comment to this article somewhere else, that comment said IT projects need a lot of fixed cost, it was my mistake to have mixed the content.

      For your second point: First, when I was saying "IT projects requires almost no fixed cost", I was implicitly comparing the IT industry to some other industries that require huge capex. For example utility, manufacturing, pharmacy, etc. What I actually wanted to contrast here is that human cost is often the only cost in an IT project. To be more accurate, there are many different kinds of IT projects actually. Some projects, such as Google's autonomous driving cars, Project Loon, etc., do need to involve some decent amount of material expenditure, while some other project do not. So, one must be careful when trying to generalize IT projects. Let me post these now, when the comment is too long, I know blogspot's anti-spam algo will swallow it.....

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    3. (continue). My second point to your second point: you said engineers/researchers's input are mainly used to come up with the idea. Hey but I have problem with this. Actually I consider the discipline of engineers and researchers is much more valuable than merely some geeky ideas. Often ideas are not that difficult to come up with, but the capability of designing a feasible technical solution and implementing it requires long long years of hard training, and in some rare cases, real talent. They have the hard skills for getting things done. That's why those people are often the most crucial resource in some high-profile tech projects. Well okay, this has nothing to do with the original topic of this discussion, but I just have an urge to voice it. ( to be continued )

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    4. As for your third point, we software developers just do not classify software upon geography nowadays. Of course I do not have any problem if you insist to say things like that. Let's say, Linus Torvalds was a Finnish student when he created Linux Kernel v0.1, but we do not say Linux Kernel is Finnish software. And, the chief engineer of the Chrome V8 engine ( the V8 engine is also open source, btw) is a Danish guy and he still lives in Denmark, we do not call V8 engine Danish software. I understand that the degree of collaboration in an open source software community is not that easy to grasp for outsiders, but you appear much sharper if you stop saying "xxx is American/Finnish/Indian/whatever-nationality software", especially when that is some open source software. ;-)

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    5. And, I am not sure about "Windows仍是電腦作業系統一哥,在歐洲市佔率仍近八成". If you also count smart phones as computers (yes they actually are), then the open source Android operating system a la Google might be a very big player here, though I haven't checked the hard number yet. Well, those are just details that not matter too much in the context of this discussion, I do not intend to argue here. Enough bashing, really never meant to offend. Actually what I really wanted to say is, I think, what really establishes USA's leadership in the IT business has something to do with its political and ideological environment. Europeans are often very conservative towards new technology....

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