In the past two decades, established industries have seen emerging companies disrupt the market . These companies have turned a profit in unprecedented ways, which they then feed into expanding the frontiers of technology, continually expanding the gap between the old and the new.
In the past, companies that had established themselves with hardware technology reigned. The pack  was led by Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, HP, and Dell, but the scale tipped when software-focused companies, and their business models, entered the fray. Google and Apple leveraged the 20–30% slice from in-app purchases that they invested in further sophisticating their technologies, including the development of their cutting-edge hardware products, cloud services, AI, and voice recognition technology. This model funnels cash from an untraditional revenue source to research and development, making it difficult for companies rooted in more conventional models to compete. But exceptions exist: the likes of Samsung and LG have managed to remain competitive by relying on efficient supply chain management, frequent product updates, and reasonably-priced, quality products.
We can see the same pattern in the retail industry: Amazon, a retail company, milking a cloud computing service cash cow. Amazon’s online presence might not have been of major concern for traditional players; it is, rather, the company’s ability to grow its technology while maintaining a thin margin in retail that’s particularly impressive. In fact, Amazon has long suffered from a deficit in the retail business and is still holding onto its low-cost model to keep the profit rates below 1–2% even after accounting for Amazon’s prime membership fee, fulfillment service, and PB (private label brand) sales.
Instead, Amazon's cloud computing service (AWS or Amazon Web Services) is its major income source. AWS was originally built to utilize extra server resources from their e-commerce business and has since grown, contributing to the growth of Amazon’s Alexa and other AI services, machine learning, and so much more. Briefly put, Amazon has become a retail company that leans into software as a service to generate profit, shaping future technology and keeping its retail sector afloat.
In the past, entertainment production was dominated by large studios in Hollywood like Disney and Universal Studios, who produced and marketed blockbuster movies and dramas. Then entered Netflix to popularize “streaming,” armed with recommendation algorithms and a strategic online platform. Netflix’s data processing and prediction algorithm had been created by competitions of engineers from all over the world, and it rarely fails to predict what a user might like to watch. Encouraged by its own success, the company started actively making original content and did so in other countries at a much lower production cost than in the US, thereby reinforcing its global sourcing power.
Compared to other sectors, business practices in the automotive industry are changing at a slower pace. One reason for this rigidity  might be that cars are expensive consumer goods, and so vehicle brands are tied to consumers’ social status. The most noticeable change in the industry was led by Tesla. It has quickly become a high-powered player, primarily by introducing fully electric vehicles and autopilot technology in a market where German and Japanese carmakers like Toyota, Benz, and BMW have long dominated. However, electric cars still represent less than 5% of the global auto market; Tesla’s total car sales account for slightly more than 500,000 vehicles a year.
In fact, Tesla's recent profits, a first since its foundation, were due to its sale of a large swath of carbon emission credits to other automakers who failed to meet their regulatory requirements. Though unsustainable, this source of cash flow can aid in the company’s focus on technology. Moreover, Tesla, like leading technology companies in other sectors, has been playing with ingenious ways to generate profit: a nearly fully automated production line, direct sales to customers without dealerships, and a plan to buy back and upgrade its AI-equipped used cars to build a fully automated logistics network.
Tech companies are beating a new path by taking a stronger hold of varying industries at respective paces. In ten years from now, who might be the next great influencer in the global market? What structural changes might the next player bring to the table?