2018-09-24: Google parent Alphabet and the other four dominant U.S. technology companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook -- are fast becoming industrial giants. They spent a combined $80 billion in the last year on big-ticket physical assets, including manufacturing equipment and specialized tools for assembling iPhones and the powerful computers and undersea internet cables Facebook needs to fire up Instagram videos in a flash.
Thanks to this surge in spending -- up from $40 billion in 2015 -- they've joined the ranks of automakers, telephone companies, and oil drillers as the country's biggest spenders on capital goods, items including factories, heavy equipment, and real estate that are considered long-term investments.
Their combined outlay is about 10 times what GM spends annually on its plants, vehicle-assembly robots, and other materials. The splurge by tech companies is behind an upswing in capital-goods spending among big U.S. companies, which is seeing its fastest growth in years, according to a Credit Suisse analysis. The $80 billion tab also is a snapshot of why it's tough to unseat the tech giants.
How can a company hope to compete with Google's driverless cars when it spends $20 billion a year to ensure it has the best laser-guided sensors and computer chips? There are a lot of physical assets behind all those internet clouds.