When you think Microsoft, you think "big." Especially from the perspective of Apple's long-time customers and loyalists -- those who remember the rough times in the 1990s, when Microsoft's US$150 million investment helped keep the company from fiscal ruin -- the idea of corporate behemoth-ness is paired irrevocably with Redmond's mastery of the Windows ecosystem.
It was Microsoft's dominance of the computer industry that led a federal judge to declare that the company had "monopoly power" in 1999. Correspondingly, the revenues and profits generated by the Windows juggernaut equate to the biggest of big money. At least, pretty big money.
In responding to Ed Bott's ZDnet article about the relative distribution of profits among the various business lines at three tech leaders (Google, Microsoft and Apple; Bott's point was that Google's cash comes almost exclusively from advertising, while Apple and Microsoft have more balance), MG Siegler noted that the pretty pie charts were missing a key piece of context. Apple's revenues and profits may weigh heavily on the iPhone, it's true, but what's not apparent from the side-by-side comparison is the scale.
It's not just that Apple is doing better than Microsoft in revenues, profits and market cap. It's not just that Apple earned and kept more than twice as much as Microsoft did in the holiday quarter. It's that the most successful Apple product, considered as a standalone business, is larger than Microsoft all on its own.
No, that's not a typo. In the quarter ending December 31, the iPhone rang up sales of more than $24 billion. All of Microsoft's businesses -- Windows, Office, Xbox, enterprise, consumers, the whole shebang -- chalked up almost $21 billion in revenues. Yes, Microsoft's strongest quarter for business sales may not be the one where IT purchasers are more focused on Christmas vacation than server upgrades. But it's still a breathtaking fact, and a striking transition from a decade ago.
[Hat tip to Business Insider]