Tech giants' earnings showed their absolute dominance


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The tech industry is really two industries. There are the five giants, which operate at an almost unimaginable scale, and then there’s everybody else.

Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft all reported March quarter earnings this week, and some of the numbers that came out showed how dominant they are. In many cases, relatively small business units buried within the giants are generating more revenue than entire big-name tech companies.

For instance:

Google’s YouTube is on track to generate as much revenue this year as Netflix — once dubbed a peer in the collection of “FAANG” stocks. Yet, YouTube is a relatively small business for Google, accounting for only 13% of its advertising revenue. Meanwhile, parent company Alphabet gained another $4.5 billion from an increase in the value of investments it’s made in start-ups over the last decade, as many of those start-ups have gone public or raised new rounds at dramatically higher valuations.

Amazon‘s advertising business generated close to $7 billion during the quarter, and its growth rate is accelerating. That’s nearly seven times as much as all of Twitter, but it’s barely noticeable against Amazon’s total quarterly revenue of over $108 billion. Meanwhile, the company’s cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, generated more revenue in the first quarter of 2021 than all of Oracle did in its fiscal third quarter, which ended Feb. 28.

Microsoft’s LinkedIn has booked more than $3 billion in ad revenue during the last year, which is more than the entirety of Snap or Pinterest. But that’s a drop in the bucket for Microsoft, which has booked over $121 billion in the last nine months alone.

Apple‘s gadget business, dubbed “Wearables, Home and Accessories” and consisting of Apple Watch, audio add-ons like AirPods and HomePods, and other home devices like Apple TV, booked more than $7.8 billion in the quarter ended Mar. 31. That’s more than HP‘s laptop business generated in its quarter ended Jan. 31— which, unlike Apple’s quarter, encompassed the holiday buying season. Yet it only accounted for 8.7% of Apple’s overall sales. Apple’s iPhone business, meanwhile, is truly