Apple’s meteoric rise to become the world’s most valuable company is already the stuff of legend. But most people don’t realize how quickly it happened.
In 2002, Microsoft was the big daddy of the tech world – its revenues were 28 billion, nearly 5 times those of Apple, and over 50 times those of the newly-formed Google. Through the 2000s, both Microsoft and Google grew their revenues at roughly similar cadences. Apple too, was chugging along, and the three had maintained their relative positions – Microsoft led, followed by Apple and Google. Then something changed in 2007.
Steve Jobs launched the iPhone on 29th June 2007, and its impact on Apple’s fortunes was immediate. Apple’s revenues grew more than threefold from 2007 to 2010, and nudged past Microsoft. Its revenues exploded after 2010 – they nearly tripled in the next two, and quadrupled in the next five. Microsoft and Google had kept growing, but at the same sedate pace of the past decade, and Apple was soon miles ahead.
What had caused this growth was the iPhone. Soon after its launch, it became a consumer favourite, and its unit sales followed the exponential curve that growth hackers dream of – they grew 10x in its first year, and then grew by a factor of 2 in the next three. In 2015, iPhone sales peaked at 231 million units, meaning every 30th person in the world bought an iPhone in 2015.
And iPhones became an industry in themselves. In 2015, iPhone revenues contributed a whole 63.4%percent to all of Apple’s revenues.
What this meant that one product – the iPhone – now generates more revenues than companies like Microsoft and Google. The iPhone went past Google in 2011; it outstripped Microsoft in 2012. By 2015, the iPhone alone was generating twice the revenue of Google. It’s not yet more than their revenues of Microsoft and Google combined, but it’s come awfully close.