Can Little Companies Still Get Ahead?

Oct 1, 2011
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When we think about the state of home entertainment today, we typically talk about companies like Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Sony, and others. After all, they’re the firms that are performing so well in the space right now, and they’re the companies that, at least for the time being, will continue to set the benchmark by which all others are judged.

But all that talk of big companies seems to leave out smaller firms that have some unique ideas but don’t seem to be able to get ahead.

[Image credit: Dark Dwarf]

Take, for example, Boxee. That company is by no means a household name, but it has attracted a cult-like following in tech circles. The only trouble is, when it tried to make a mark in the set-top box market, it failed to do so. And now, if one asks the average consumer if they’ve ever tried out a Boxee Box, most will say they’ve never even heard of it.

Of course, some might say that Boxee, and so many other small companies’ troubles in the home-entertainment space have to do with the fact that their products aren’t all that appealing. Those folks argue that any company has a chance to make it big in the technology space as long as they come up with a product that’s compelling and delivers to consumers what they’re looking for.

[aquote]The industry is littered with the remains of small companies that had neat ideas but failed to reach the heights[/aquote]

But is that really the case? The industry is littered with the remains of small companies that had really neat ideas but for one reason or another, failed to reach the heights. Boxee has a really great service and I felt that the Boxee Box was a solid product. And yet, it’s the Apple TV that gets most of the attention in the set-top box space.

Turning to the gaming market, we find two major firms -- Sony and Microsoft -- battling it out. Nintendo, while not as big as those firms, is a giant in the gaming space. Where is a new, upstart company that has something really unique to take on those three? Some might say it’s OnLive, which could be a compelling argument. The only trouble is, OnLive is still dwarfed by those companies, and like so many others, isn’t all that well known in the mainstream.

Although the technology industry has always had high barriers to entry, I’m starting to wonder if they’re only getting higher. Why is the Kindle Fire the only tablet, other than the iPad 2, that people are getting excited about when so many other slates, on store shelves now, deliver many of the same compelling features? Why is the Apple TV the chosen set-top box when many other products can do so much more?

As we look around the industry, and especially at all the gadgetry we have running in our homes, we quickly find that it’s the big companies that reign supreme. And all the other small firms -- with great products are not -- are left to hope for the scraps.

It’s an unfortunate development, and something that I hope changes in the future.

But to be quite honest, I don’t think it’ll happen.


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