Apple's Quarterly Revenue vs. 15 Really Big Numbers

Apple had the best December quarter in the history of quarters. Revenue was $US 74.6 billion for the last three months of 2014, with the iPhone making up $51.2 billion of that. Apple also reported $18 billion in profits, a record for all the companies. It's a lot of money, and then some—to put some context into those numbers, Mike Rose and I were looking for ways to make sense of these numbers while we were recording, so I thought I'd run with that idea and put together more numbers for you.

First up, let's talk competitors: search giant Google had revenues of $60.6 billion for all of 2014. Retailer Amazon came in at $74.5 billion for its fiscal year. Computer software giant Microsoft clocked in at $77.8 billion in 2014 revenue. Remember, Apple is at $74.6 billion, not for all of 2014, but for just one quarter.

Apple's crazy numbers compared to other crazy numbers.Apple's ball of crazy numbers compares pretty well to other gigantic numbers.

In related industries, Mac-chip maker Intel reported $52.7 billion dollars in fiscal 2014. Apple's revenue assisted AT&T and Verizon with their bottom lines, too. AT&T reported $128.7 billion, and Verizon had $120.5 billion in revenue for the whole year. That's better than the above-mentioned companies, but still less than double in a year what Apple did in one quarter.

Then there are the industrial giants of previous generations. Venerable names like General Electric turned in $146.2 billion for the year. General Motors had $155.4 billion. Exxon, the largest oil company in the Fortune 500, reported $407.6 billion in revenue. That is much larger than Apple, yet Apple makes much more in profit than the energy giant.

Then there are the household names. Say, McDonald's, a company many consider massive. In 2014, the peddler of cheap burgers had $28.1 billion in revenue. For comparison's sake, that's less than Apple's December quarter revenues in iPhone only for 2013, when Apple reported $32.5 billion in iPhone sales. Again, in order to make comparisons to Apple's quarter I have to use the entire year of other companies.

Let's move on to the crazy numbers. Since the current world population is estimated at 7.2 billion, that means in three months every man, woman, and child on the planet spent ten dollars on Apple stuff. All of them.

Another crazy huge number comes from brick and mortar, race-to-the-bottom champion Walmart. That company brought in $476.3 billion in 2014. We can turn to the U.S. government for an even bigger number—the current proposed defense budget for 2015 is $495.6 billion dollars. Apple's December 2014 quarter is less than either number, but it's a meaningful percentage of both: 15.7 percent of Walmart's annual revenues and 15.1 percent of the entire budget of the world's largest military power.

So there's the crazy big numbers, let's check out the little ones. Public broadcasting requested $445 million from the federal government in both 2013 and 2014. Yes, million. With an "m." Apple's Mac sales for the  December quarter alone were $6.9 billion. That number compares more favorably to (cue Jim Dalrymple laughing) Blackberry's $6.8 billion reported revenue for all of 2014. Yes, what Apple watchers consider the "small" number, the fraction of Apple revenue, that happens to be more than Blackberry did in one full year.

My last bit of numeration is this: Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the first iPad. In five years the iPad progressed from an announcement (it was not for sale until April) to selling 163 of them a minute, every minute of every day for three solid months. And that was a number that had to be explained since it was viewed as a 'lagging' number.