Quitting the five tech giants: Could you abandon Amazon?

Imagine your life without Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft. David Gewirtz begins his five-day look at quitting the Big Five tech giants with Amazon. Sure, he can quit. He can quit anytime he wants...
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Could you really survive without seeing the new season of Man In the High Castle?

I have been morbidly fascinated with a six-week article/video series running on Gizmodo. In this series, reporter Kashmir Hill has attempted to go cold turkey from Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, one each week. She ended her series by attempting to cut them all out for a week to see if she could survive.

Also: Warren proposes reversing big tech acquisitions

The TL;DR result: She survived, barely, but it wasn't easy.

Kashmir's series got me thinking: Could I quit the Big Five? Was it even possible? How mission-critical are they each to my daily activities?

It's also very interesting in light of presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up the big tech giants. Of course, she has to make it through a primary and then an election before such a plan has any chance of gaining legs.

That said, based on both Ms. Hill's experience and my look at the Big Five, it's pretty clear that breaking up those companies is unlikely to cause us to stop using their services.

The idea of an anti-trust break-up is to improve competitiveness. But, for most of the businesses we're looking at, there are already one or more substantial competitors. Users like Kashmir and I have simply chosen, from the field of competitors, those that provide the services we most need.

Also: Getting started with Alexa and smart home tech for under $100

To be clear, I'm not as brave as Ms. Hill. I'm not turning anything off or seriously trying to find a workaround. Instead, my take on her series is merely a thought exercise, where I examine the services I rely on from each of the big tech giants.

Each day this week, I'll look at one of the Big Five and let you know how far I think I could go in quitting (or how locked in I am)

The full series:


Week One for Kashmir was Amazon, so that's where we'll start. Amazon, of course, is more than just shopping, but I've been a Prime member since, pretty much, the first few hours Amazon offered the service.

Abandoning Amazon

Could I give up shopping via Amazon? I buy a lot of work-related electronics and such through Amazon. I could go to other vendors -- Newegg, for example. We now live in a small town and the big stores are farther away than they used to be, but it's not that long of a ride. We could get in the car and source some version of almost everything we currently get from Amazon's shopping service.

But the problem is time. My wife and I are both incredibly busy and using Prime for delivery saves us hours we don't have to run around and shop. So, yes, I could give up on Prime. But it would hurt.

What about Prime Video? Well, right now, I got a subscription to The Curse of Oak Island, and I'd like to see how this season ends. Yes, I could buy the episodes from Apple, but that's another of the Big Five. We're also re-watching Babylon 5 (which sort of holds up after 20 years), but we could skip it. If we gave up Prime Video, we'd still have Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and HBO Now. So, yeah, it could go and would barely cause an ouchie.

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What else? What about AWS? Most consumers don't think of Amazon's Web Service, but my main websites run on AWS. I could port those sites to another service, but it would take days per site. So, yes, I could live without AWS, but why?

Then, there's Alexa. Let's be clear here. My family consists of me, my wife, my dog Pixel, and the six Alexa siblings who live in the various rooms of our house. Unlike Pixel, the Alexas generally listen and do what we ask. For us, it's more than just trivia, reminders, and basic math. Alexa controls our thermostat, our shades, our lights, and our shopping list.

If we gave up on Alexa, we'd have to turn the dial of the thermostat by hand. We'd have to get up and flick a light switch. I don't even know how we'd open our shades.

Finally, there's Kindle. After two major moves, I gave up on most of my physical book library. When we moved to Florida, we had 10,280 pounds of books. In this move to Oregon, I kept about a dozen books. Everything else is on Kindle, scanned into PDF on our home server (as allowed by fair use law), or the web. Could I give up on Kindle? I like my book collection. I wouldn't want to lose it.

Could I quit?

So, could I abandon Amazon? Almost everything Amazon provides could either be substituted or dispensed with, but why? Switching would involve a lot of work and remove a lot of convenience. Amazon's role, therefore, in my life is as a time-giver and friction-reducer. We could walk away, but it'd be counter-productive.

Also: The future of Amazon Echo and Google Home looks bleak

Let's be clear, I'm not discussing this from the point of view of Amazon's impact on the world, small business, labor issues, or competitiveness. I'm merely discussing my personal choice, which, right now, is dictated heavily by the need for any convenience that will help me do my job or keep my household running smoothly.

What about you? Could you abandon Amazon? Let us know what you'd miss and what you couldn't give up. Could you really survive without seeing the new season of Man In the High Castle? Well, could you?

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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