How Do Big Tech Giants Make Their Billions?
In 2021, the Big Five tech giants—Apple, Amazon, Google (Alphabet), Meta, and Microsoft—generated a combined $1.4 trillion in revenue.
What are the sources of this revenue, and how does it breakdown?
Below, we’ll dive into the main ways that these big tech giants generate revenue, and take a look at how much their revenues have increased in recent years.
Breaking Down Big Tech’s Revenue Streams
As we’ve mentioned in previous editions of this graphic, there are two main ways that big tech companies generate revenue:
- They either sell you a product
- Or sell you as the product to advertisers
Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon fall into the first category—like most traditional businesses, these companies offer customers a physical (or digital) product in exchange for money. More than half of Apple’s revenue comes from iPhone sales, Azure cloud services generate almost a third of Microsoft’s total, and Amazon’s online stores account for nearly 50% of the company’s revenue.
On the other hand, Meta and Alphabet do things a bit differently. Rather than selling an actual product, these two tech giants make most of their money by selling their audience’s attention. Nearly 98% of Meta’s revenue comes from Facebook ads, and 81% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising on various Google products.
However, despite their varying ways of generating sales, these companies all have one thing in common: revenues have soared in recent years.
The Pandemic Has Sped Up Growth
Amidst rising unemployment and pandemic-induced chaos, the Big Five still managed to see a significant revenue uptick.
In 2019 (pre-pandemic), big tech’s combined revenue grew by 12%. The following year, throughout the onset of the global pandemic and the various economic challenges that came with it, big tech still increased its combined revenue by 19%.
And in the 2021 fiscal year, big tech saw a 27% growth in combined revenue, year-over-year.
|Company||Revenue (FY 2020)||Revenue (FY 2021)||Growth (YoY)|
|Apple||$274.5 billion||$365.8 billion||33%|
|Amazon||$386.1 billion||$469.8 billion||22%|
|Alphabet||$182.5 billion||$257.6 billion||41%|
|Microsoft||$143.1 billion||$168.1 billion||17%|
|Meta||$86.0 billion||$117.9 billion||37%|
|Combined||$1.1 trillion||$1.4 trillion||27%|
How did these companies continue to thrive throughout economic turmoil and global chaos? It was made possible because the societal changes triggered by COVID-19 ended up driving demand for big tech’s products and services.
For example, lockdown restrictions forced people to shop online, causing e-commerce sales to escalate. Demand for laptops and cloud-based services grew as offices shut down and companies pivoted to fully remote workspaces.
Is Growth Here to Stay?
These days, COVID-19 restrictions have eased in most countries, and the world has slowly returned to normalcy.
But that doesn’t mean growth for big tech will stop. In fact, the pandemic-induced changes to our work and shopping habits will likely stick around, meaning the increased demand for big tech’s offerings could be here to stay.
Two-thirds of employees from a global survey said their company would likely make remote work a permanent option. And global e-commerce sales are expected to grow steadily over the next few years to reach $7 trillion by 2025.
Ranked: The World’s Top 10 Electronics Exporters (2000-2021)
Here are the largest electronics exporters by country, highlighting how electronics trade has increasingly shifted to Asia over 20 years.
Top 10 Electronics Exporters in the World (2000-2021)
From personal computers to memory chips, the electronics trade plays a vital role in the world economy. In 2021, global electronics exports reached $4.1 trillion according to McKinsey Global Institute.
This graphic shows the 10 largest electronics exporters in the world, based on data from McKinsey, and how they’ve changed since 2000.
Ranked: The Top 10 Exporters of Electronics
Which countries are the leading exporters of electronics, and how has this shifted over the last two decades?
|Rank||Country||Share of Total 2021||Share of Total 2000|
|3||🇰🇷 South Korea||7%||5%|
|7||🇺🇸 United States||4%||16%|
We can see in the above table how global electronics trade has become more concentrated in Asia, specifically China and Taiwan. As an electronics powerhouse, 34% of the world’s electronic goods in 2021 came from China, representing $1.4 trillion in value.
Home to leading firms like TSMC, Taiwan also plays a major role due to its prowess in semiconductor manufacturing—highlighting the island’s global importance.
But not all of Asia has been thriving. In 2000, Japan was a global electronics powerhouse responsible for 13% of the industry’s exports, but has seen its share shrink to 4% in 2021. The U.S. has also sheen its electronics lead shrink, with exports down from 16% of the global total in 2000 to just 4% in 2021.
Several factors have driven this shift. Instead of manufacturing electronics domestically, the U.S. has outsourced technology to countries where manufacturing, production, and labor costs are lower. However, recently, the U.S. is focusing on reshoring semiconductor production specifically given its role in national security, as seen through the $52.7 billion CHIPS Act.
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