Check out this fascinating chart from The Economist regarding IT industry revenues, profits, employees and so on. The two monsters of the space are HP and IBM, which both have double the revenues of Apple, and more than 10x the number of employees.
The story, The end of Wintel, compares the giants of the IT industry in terms of how vertically integrated they are.
The shift to mobile computing and data centres (also known as “cloud computing”) has speeded up the “verticalisation” of the IT industry. Imagine that the industry is a stack of pancakes, each representing a “layer” of technology: chips, hardware, operating systems, applications. Microsoft, Intel and other IT giants have long focused on one or two layers of the stack. But now firms are becoming more vertically integrated. For these new forms of computing to work well, the different layers must be closely intertwined.
Apple, whose products have always been more integrated, is building a huge data centre and also offering web-based services.
As I argued in Inside Steve’s Brain, Apple is ascendant these days because of its vertical integration. It’s into the whole stack, from chips to online advertising. And despite what the chart says, will also likely be into cloud computing.