Where's most of the post-PC revenue going? Clue: It's not to Apple

Where's most of the post-PC revenue going? Clue: It's not to Apple

Summary: The shift from the PC to post-PC technology has been good for wireless carriers, who globally pull in a combined revenue of some $1.3 trillion a year. This is equivalent to four times the combined revenue of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Intel.

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Think post-PC mobile devices and you think of companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft. While these companies have done more than any other to shape the post-PC world, they're not the biggest winners when it comes to pulling in the dollars.

So who are the winners? It's the wireless carriers.

According to the MIT Technology Review, the 900 or so global wireless carriers pull in a combined revenue of some $1.3 trillion a year. If that sounds like a big number, it's because it is. This is equivalent to four times the combined revenue of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Intel.

(Image: MIT Technology Review)

That's a lot of money.

The switch from "dumbphones" to the modern day smartphone has also been good for the electronics industry, helping to keep revenues buoyant.

"In 2007," wrote Antonio Regalado for the MIT Technology Review, "the average wholesale price of a mobile phone was $120 and falling; analysts talked of market saturation because nearly everyone who could afford one, had one. But since then, prices have leapt by 50 percent, and the revenue from all mobile handset sales has doubled."

While smartphone and tablet hardware is what captures consumer's imaginations — and headlines — there's also potential for massive growth for wireless carriers, especially in developing nations.

According to venture capitalist Mary Meeker, some 1.14 billion people already own mobile computers, but that leaves 5.8 billion who don't, 4.5 billion of who are not yet hooked up to the internet. That means that there's an enormous market waiting to be tapped, especially in countries such as India and China.

"The killer app isn't Angry Birds, but access to computing itself," concluded Regalado. Judging by the current revenue data, I think he is right, and as consumers keep the pressure on manufacturers to keep prices low, I can't see this changing any time soon.

If you want that shiny new smartphone or tablet, then unless you have constant wi-fi to rely on, you'll need to throw more money at the wireless carriers.

Topics: Mobility, Android, China, Smartphones, Mobile OS, iPad, iPhone, Hardware, Google, Apple, India

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50 comments
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  • I look forward to the day when public wifi is pervasive enough that I can

    ditch carriers all together.
    theoilman
    • Never going to happen.

      No one is even working on it.

      Time to find a new dream. Like unicorns.

      I heard they have fat ones in Africa but they're grey and some nuts call them rhinos... :-\
      T1Oracle
      • it doesn't even have to be free wifi

        if there were a company (or companies) that blanketed most areas (comparable coverage to cell carriers) with wifi and charged $10-$20/month, it would be perfect. plenty of companies already do this, they just don't have good enough coverage yet.
        theoilman
        • Most people don't understand the first principles

          "if there were a company (or companies) that blanketed most areas (comparable coverage to cell carriers) with wifi and charged $10-$20/month, it would be perfect. plenty of companies already do this, they just don't have good enough coverage yet."

          That is called a cellular wireless carrier.

          You seem to be seeking something for free. Why don't you build one for the benefit of mankind?

          What could lower prices is more competition, but not competition that leads to fragmentation and switching barriers. Politics and licensing prevent some of that competition.
          kingkong881
      • Gave you a vote!

        Cause you gave me a laugh!
        martin_js
    • More likely ...

      ... Wi-Fi will become so pervasive that cellular carriers will be competing head-to-head with Wi-Fi in the marketplace. The result will be that the cellco's will have to lower the cost of their data plans to keep you on their networks.

      There are lots of emerging technologies out there which will eventually help drive the cost of wireless data down to the point that it is nearly ubiquitous.
      M Wagner
    • Agree - never going to happen

      Sure, I would LOVE to dump my current DSL supplier (do not live up to bandwidth promise, among other things), and none of the alternatives give evidence of being any better. *BUT* as already pointed out, reality is that the "carriers" have a huge vested interest for it to not happen, and they can "make the rules" with their heavyweight financial presence....
      Willnott
    • On Long Island, NY

      The local cable company, Cablevision, is blanketing the island with WiFi available to all those who subscribe to their cable service at no extra charge.

      Works great for me.
      Cmd_Line_Dino
  • Can you say, "I'm being ripped off".

    I wonder if Big Oil executives and Global Wireless Carrier execs attend the same social functions? It seems that the both have the same goals and interests.

    I wonder how long it will take before both of those business concerns kill the middle class golden goose?
    kenosha77a
    • Yes, I'm sure they do

      "I wonder if Big Oil executives and Global Wireless Carrier execs attend the same social functions? It seems that the both have the same goals and interests."

      And apple is seated at the head of the table.
      toddbottom3
      • Head of the Table

        ...in seat rotation with Microsoft, Google, Samsung....
        earljgray
      • Not according to the charts

        If they so manage to show up at the party I'm pretty sure security will escort them back to their "economy" class helicopters...
        T1Oracle
      • Is there something wrong with you?

        Whats with all this insane Apple hatred?

        It dosnt bring you any credability.

        Whats going to happen when you actually have something constructive to say. We need more credible people around here, not fewer.

        If you feel there are too many Apple oriented nutbags around here then leave the nuttyness to them. Step up to the plate, be real and be credible, even if it means you have to leave behind insulting and rediculous.
        Cayble
        • How many times can I vote for your comment???

          I think td3 must dream about Apple at night. He seems obsessed with them.

          I like Apple. I like Microsoft (except for 8). I like all kinds of tech companies that help me do my job and enjoy life.

          I'm just glad that I have a life!!!

          Hope everyone has a GREAT day.

          Badknee1
          Badknee_1
      • Oh Toddy!

        You never fail to disappoint - only you can make this stuff up!

        Did Steve Jobs beat-you-up when you were a little geek?
        Gr8Music
    • You do realize that "Big Oil" has a profit margin of three to five

      percent, right? I'll also bet you think it's selfless and altruistic for you to demand the right to pay less for more.
      baggins_z
      • Really?

        Is your source "big oil" or tea leaves or beer froth?
        ego.sum.stig
      • And you believed this?

        Did you know that you have long lost cousin in Nigeria who just died and left you a 2 million dollars? Just e-mail your banking information to duped@jokesonyou.com and we'll wire it to you ASAP!
        T1Oracle
        • Nah

          Email it to toddbottom3....
          TimeForAChangeToBetter
      • What's the turnover rate?

        Before you can assume a markup rate is high or low you must also know the rate the inventory turns over.

        A furniture store with a 100% markup and inventory that turns once or twice a year is one thing .... but assume a grocery store's bread aisle turns over every 48 hours and has a 3% markup ... calculate the annual rate of return.
        hildekl