Who’s Eating Your Lunch?

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AOL has been forced to become a content company and team up with Huffington Post now that we all get our Internet from the cable guy. Meanwhile, MySpace is sporting a FOR SALE sign and Borders is facing Chapter 11, while their competitors—Facebook and Amazon—brag of record growth and profits. Now as ever, success in business belongs to those ready to eat the lunch of a complacent rival—and the cycle of life completes itself as potential competitors of the future hit the scene. Here’s a guide to some of the business world’s biggest recent reversals of fortune.

Conqueror: Facebook

In Retreat: MySpace

Vanquished: Friendster

Future Threat: Quora

What Happened: Rupert’s $580 million prize is now the most painfully unhip neighborhood in cyberspace. Facebook was better designed—and has people you wouldn’t be embarrassed to call friends.

Conqueror: iPhone

In Retreat: BlackBerry

Vanquished: Nokia

Future Threat: Android

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What Happened: What did we use before the iPhone? Apparently a boxy device with actual buttons called a BlackBerry. Now two thirds of Verizon BlackBerry owners say they want to switch to the JesusPhone.

Conqueror: Embraer

In Retreat: Bombardier

Vanquished: Fairchild Dornier

Future Threat: Sukhoi; Honda

What Happened: That annoying four-to-a-row jet you just flew on? Embraer’s crushing the competition with them. Last year it won orders for 55 jets to Bombardier’s nine at the Farnborough air show.

Conqueror: Netflix

In Retreat: Blockbuster

Vanquished: TiVO

Future Threat: Apple TV

What Happened: Blockbuster loved late fees. Netflix loves unlimited rentals and, now, online streaming at warp speed. Now, back to Saw V.

Conqueror: Google

In Retreat: Yahoo; Ask

Vanquished: AltaVista

Future Threat: Blekko

What Happened: Let’s face it: when you want to do a vanity search, you don’t Yahoo yourself. But maybe the day will come when you’ll Blekko yourself.

Conqueror: Amazon

In Retreat: Borders

Vanquished: The Shop Around the corner

Future Threat: Apple

What Happened: Amazon has instantly downloadable, fully searchable e-books. Borders has a guy named Tim at the information desk who’s reading Job Searching for Dummies.

Conqueror: CANON

In Retreat: Kodak

Vanquished: Polaroid

Future Threat: Cell phones

What Happened: There hasn’t been a Kodak moment since the Clinton administration. But these days, who needs a camera without a friends-and-family plan?

Conqueror: Xbox Kinect

In Retreat: WII

Vanquished: PlayStation

Future Threat: Apple TV

What Happened: While Mario and Luigi were fighting over the princess, Microsoft was selling 8 million Kinect units worldwide. Nintendo swears its coming 3-D Game Boy will give the company an extra life.

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