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1948: Said to be the world's fastest calculator. Photo: Keystone / Staff / Getty

For several years, one of the greatest fears of the world's legacy companies has been disruption by an Uber or Airbnb — an adroit new startup with a cheap, market-shattering idea. But a surprising new reality led by the confluence of big data and artificial intelligence has softened their anxiety, and made them think they — and not startups — are the new, new thing, according to a new study.  

Quick take: If the study — by IBM and Oxford Economics, a commercial arm of Oxford University — is right, publicly traded legacy companies in numerous industries may be on the cusp of a boom in value.

According to the study, based on interviews with 12,854 C-suite executives in 112 countries across 20 industries, 72% said that, if their sector is disrupted, it will be by old hands such as themselves. Just 22% said a small company or startup would be responsible for such a shakeup.

  • "It talks to a confidence different from the past, when the assumption was that disruption was all coming from small, nimble startups that were going to break up basic business models," Mark Foster, a senior vice president at IBM, told Axios. "Now its more a case of they are fighting back."

The big difference is data: The prevailing wisdom is that companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn have vacuumed up the majority of the world's commercializable data. But, according to the study, such Big Tech companies control only about 20% of it.

  • Instead, far older incumbents like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and the UK's Santander own about 80% of the world's data, the study said.
  • "Your bank has records on you going back since you started banking with them," Foster said. "They know a lot more about you than Google or Linked in are going to scrape from the Web."
  • "And they will combine their own information with external information that's on the Web, like likes and dislikes," he said.

A crucial fact: There is a more level tech playing field.

  • AI — the key enabling technology for commercializing this data — is available to everyone and monopolized by no single or group of companies. No single company is in control of AI.
  • Therefore, incumbent companies can build platforms customized for their own industries, and, using AI, can monetize their proprietary data, the study said.

This does not mean Big Tech is in trouble, the study said.

Amazon, for instance, will continue to be a threat to the industries it is preying on, "but there will be more competition going forward," Foster said.

Go deeper: IBM presents the study live in Barcelona at 9:45 am EST today.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker
2 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.