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On the money

American tech still leads the world

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

US tech giants are winning big in the pandemic: this week saw quarterly results far ahead of expectations for Apple, powered by its premium iPhones; Google’s parent company, Alphabet, boosted by digital ad spending; and Microsoft, thanks to its cloud computing services and gaming. Grist to the mill, too, for Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, who pointed out in support of his thesis that America is not in irreversible decline that seven of the 10 most valuable companies in the world, and 14 of the top 20, have their HQs in the US.

According to Jude Blanchette of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Chinese elite is convinced its superpower rival is on an unstoppable slide. But the combative Wolf will have none of it. To illustrate US dominance, he cites the scale of venture capital investment and the global reputation of universities: in one well-known ranking, 10 of the top 20 institutions are American, while only one is Chinese.

Let’s not pretend, though, that the “FAANG” companies – that’s Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet, formerly known as Google – will have it all their own way. As The Wall Street Journal points out, most of these companies are “in the crosshairs” of regulators and investigators scrutinising their market power. And as The Economist said in an effusive piece about Elon Musk’s extraordinary techno-optimism, “the boundaries of his kingdom” may one day be constrained not by physics, but by geopolitics (notably Chinese sensitivity about data gathering and national security).

Squeezy does it for Colgate 

An MIT professor and his former doctoral student have raised $50m and entered a partnership with Colgate after patenting a container coating that ensures every last drop of toothpaste comes out of the tube. “It solves a problem that has had people gritting their teeth for 130 years,” says The Times, adding that the innovation has a wide range of applications, “from ketchup bottles, using food-grade materials, to lotions, where its constituents would be skin-safe”.

But is the idea really in Colgate’s commercial interest, wondered one Times reader, pointing out that Colman’s mustard made its profits “from what was left on the side of the plate”. No doubt the US consumer products giant, under fire from campaigners for animal testing and plastic packaging, will be happy to emphasise that its newly designed products will reduce waste.