How Tech Companies Own Your Day

By Michael KellerMichael Keller and Alex WebbAlex Webb

Each of us has only 24 hours in a day.

As tech companies mature, they’re seeking new ways to generate revenue from each customer, and the battlefield is increasingly your most finite resource: time.

That battle plays out every minute from the time we wake up until we go to bed, and doesn't look the same for everyone. Weekday activities differ from those on weekends for many Americans. The typical day of a 9-to-5 employee, student, retiree and someone who runs their own business is likely to vary widely. But if you take everyone’s day on average, Americans spend most of their waking hours doing leisure activities (5 hours) and working (3.8 hours). And it’s in these two areas where six of the world’s largest tech companies—Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.—have concentrated their products.

But they know that a typical day is more than just business and pleasure, and so these companies are increasingly offering products that span a variety of activities.

Saturate the day
The more activities a tech company can target, the stickier its ecosystem.
    Fewer products
  • More
    products
    Core product
Google
ChromebookGmailChromecastYouTubePlayPixel
Search Android for workChromebookGmailPixelDriveG SuiteCloud
Search Shopping ExpressAndroid PayAssistantPixel
Search Shopping ExpressMapsPixelZagat
NestHome
Search WazeMapsPixelAndroid autoTripsFlights
Fit
Apple
iPhone iPad MusicTViTunesAppStore
iPhone iPad Mac iWork
iPhone Pay
iPhone Maps
HomeKit
iPhone MapsCarPlay
WatchHealthKit
Samsung
TVs Galaxy Gear VRGear 360Monitors
Galaxy NotebookMonitors
Galaxy Pay
Galaxy Family Hub
Appliances Family HubSmartThingsPowerbot
Gear smartwatchesHarman
HealthGear smartwatches
Microsoft
Windows XBoxHololens
Windows Office BingMSNHololensAzure
BingPay
Bing
Home Hub
Bing
Healthvault
Amazon
Twitch interactiveFirestickPrime VideoStudiosKindle
BusinessWeb Services
Amazon.com Whole FoodsPay
Whole FoodsRestaurantsFresh
EchoDash
Facebook
Facebook.com OculusInstagramWhatsAppMessenger
Facebook for work
MessengerMarketplace

The quest for the customer who relies exclusively on one company’s products is blurring the line between hardware makers and software makers. Take Apple, one of the first companies to have tremendous success pairing hardware with its own software. Apple’s core products are its lineup of phones, tablets and laptops. But as growth in those hardware markets is slowing, it is relying on its software to squeeze more sales out of each device by improving the offerings that depend on them.

For example, the home automation framework HomeKit, health data suite HealthKit, and vehicle dashboard interface CarPlay aim to keep these devices at the center of your life and sell you associated apps, irrespective of your surroundings. And the company seeks to breed interdependence by allowing you to control your Apple TV with your Apple Watch.

The following charts show you which products are aimed at different blocks of time, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Apple targets your day
Apple’s hardware is at the center, bolstered by software suites that position them strongly for both office and leisure.
  • Hardware
  • Software
    Core product
iPhone
iPad
TV
iTunes
AppStore
Music
Mac
iWork
HomeKit
Maps
CarPlay
Pay
Watch
HealthKit

Software and services giants such as Google are, conversely, building hardware in order to steer customers toward their core products. With the introduction of the Pixel last year, users can now access the search giant’s tools by saying ‘OK, Google’ to their smartphone. Android phones also prompt users 🔍 to rate businesses they visit or geotag recently taken photos, adding more information to the Google ecosystem and driving users back.

Google gets $152 from each North American user per year, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jitendra Waral estimates—money that is largely generated from ad sales. So the greater your exposure to Google each day, the more valuable you are as a customer. The same for Facebook, which gets about $78 a year per user.

How Google targets your day
Google’s increasing palette of services and apps have helped the company expand into travel, dining and retail.
  • Hardware
  • Software
    Core product
Pixel
Chromebook
Gmail
Search
Chromecast
Play
YouTube
G Suite
Drive
Android for work
Cloud
Nest
Home
Maps
Shopping Express
Waze
Flights
Android auto
Trips
Zagat
Android Pay
Assistant
Fit

There’s still room for expansion. Travel time remains a largely unexploited opportunity, and tech giants sense a window to sell further content and services. That’s why so many want to get into the automotive business: a customer in a self-driving car has more time to watch films or shop online, while mobile connectivity in cars increases the opportunity to suggest nearby shops or restaurants, generating ad income.

Stiff competition isn't a deterrent. For example, Amazon.com dominates the online shopping space and wants you to order household supplies via your Alexa on your Amazon Echo, or subscribe to Prime Video since the faster deliveries that come with the same Prime subscription make customers more likely to buy goods through Amazon.com. But that hasn’t stopped Google from introducing its Shopping Express service or Apple from capitalizing on its iPhone and Watch hardware to get into contactless payments.

How Amazon targets your day
The relatively little time that Americans spend shopping each day might help explain why Amazon is expanding into new fields such as home automation.
  • Hardware
  • Software
    Core product
Kindle
Firestick
Studios
Prime Video
Twitch interactive
Business
Web Services
Echo
Dash
Whole Foods
Restaurants
Fresh
Amazon.com
Pay

The combined value of capturing these activities might be more than the sum of its parts: Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have AI products, which require data—and lots of it—to anticipate what you like and deliver accordingly. Their virtual assistants—Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Facebook’s M—increasingly become the common thread connecting their offerings.

There’s one part of the day that tech companies don’t yet own: 8.8 hours of sleep each night. That could soon change, as Apple recently acquired Beddit, the maker of a $150 sleep monitor. With a sleep product, Apple would have an offering to cover just about everything a typical American does over 24 hours. If history is any guide, their competitors will soon try to own your entire day, too.

How they compare
  • Hardware
  • Software
    Core product
Kindle
Firestick
Studios
Prime Video
Twitch interactive
Business
Web Services
Echo
Dash
Whole Foods
Restaurants
Fresh
Amazon.com
Pay
iPhone
iPad
TV
iTunes
AppStore
Music
Mac
iWork
HomeKit
Maps
CarPlay
Pay
Watch
HealthKit
Messenger
Facebook.com
Oculus
Instagram
WhatsApp
Facebook for work
Marketplace
Pixel
Chromebook
Gmail
Search
Chromecast
Play
YouTube
G Suite
Drive
Android for work
Cloud
Nest
Home
Maps
Shopping Express
Waze
Flights
Android auto
Trips
Zagat
Android Pay
Assistant
Fit
Windows
Hololens
Bing
XBox
Office
MSN
Azure
Home Hub
Pay
Healthvault
Galaxy
Monitors
TVs
Gear VR
Gear 360
Family Hub
Notebook
Appliances
SmartThings
Powerbot
Gear smartwatches
Harman
Pay
Health