Click on chart for interactive version of Apple’s stock price

If there were ever any question that Apple is now the undisputed king of tech, take a look at the chart above. That’s the stock performance of Microsoft (in red) and Apple (in blue) over the past 10 years.

With Apple’s ascendancy, the company today surpassed yet another milestone. According to ABC News, it became, for a short period of time at least, the most valuable company in stock market history. Apple’s market value topped an eye-dropping $623 billion. (The stock has since fallen a bit this morning, and now shows a value of $619.4 billion)

Apple’s U Village store in Seattle

The $623 billion figure is greater than Microsoft’s peak value in 1999, though the Associated Press notes that the software giant still would be considered larger at that time period when inflation was factored in. On December 30, 1999, Microsoft boasted an all-time high value of $620.6 billion.

In today’s dollars, that would come out to be about $850 billion.

Nonetheless, Apple’s rise is nothing short of amazing. And it has absolutely blown by Microsoft whose stock value now stands at $257 billion. Apple eclipsed Microsoft in market value a few years ago, and now the iPad and iPhone maker is by far the biggest company on the planet.

The stock is shooting up today on speculation of the launch of the new iPhone as well as reports of a smaller iPad.

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  • Guest

    Congratulations to Apple on a job well done! I only hope that Apple’s current Ballmeresque CEO can keep the company innovating at its previous pace.

    • guest

      The article is about market cap. Cook has officially been CEO for less than a year. During that time he has already accomplished what has eluded Steve Ballmer since January of 2000, namely increasing the stock price. And quite dramatically too. So in what alternate universe does Cook deserve to be lumped in with Ballmer’s pathetic record?

      • Guest

        Tim is less a CEO than he is a caretaker for the Steve Jobs estate. Name one thing Tim has done that represents an innovation. Adding more pixels to someone else’s product is not “innovation.” Building nice dorms for Chinese workers employed by Foxconn is not “innovation.”

        Despite Wall Street’s misgivings, at least Steve Ballmer has taken risks with Microsoft in his 13 years at the helm of Big Mike. Name one thing Tim has done to better Apple.

        • guest

          Again, the topic of this article is share price. Cook’s success [already] in that area is a matter of record. On innovation or what his legacy as CEO will ultimately be, both are premature at this stage with less than one year officially in role. Surpassing Jobs legacy will certainly be difficult. But whether he ends up a “caretaker”, something more, or a failure like Ballmer is still a long way from being determined.

          I’d agree that Steve Ballmer has taken numerous risks, at least in new areas. Unfortunately all have been failures or fallen far short of original promises. Meanwhile he arguably didn’t take enough risks where the cash cows were concerned, with the result that others are now obsoleting MS instead of MS obsoleting itself. The net result is that shareholders have paid dearly for Steve’s “risks”. It’s not clear to me (or I suspect most others) that MS is better off today than it was when Steve took over. Indeed, I’d strongly argue the opposite. On Cook, it’s again premature. But implemented a dividend, supporting (at least purportedly) a smaller for factor iPad (contrary to Jobs), and taking steps to remove competitors products from iOS seem like reasonable and beneficial first steps.

          • Guest

            If we’re so upset that Steve Ballmer has been allowed 13 years to caretake the Big Mike, how long should we allow Tim to ride his dead predecessor’s coattails? If you haven’t noticed, the share price is a function of a conservative multiplier on earnings and those earnings come from products and services that Tim has had no hand in inventing. I’ll congratulate Tim when he increases that multiplier so that Apple is perceived as a growth stock, not a blue-chip dividend-paying income stock. (You know, like Microsoft.)

            I find it deplorable that Tim has been allowed to take the reins of a proud corporation only to literally give its cash pile away and stop innovating. I can only hope for investors’ sake that iPad mini isn’t the miserable failure Jobs insisted it would be and that standalone Apple TV is released in a year or two. There certainly isn’t any reason to believe that Apple’s resident number-cruncher in charge will develop anything truly disruptive.

            Rather, I expect that the steady flow of top-tier talent out of Apple in the next 5 years will lead to truly innovative products from new companies.

          • guest

            We? You don’t seem prepared to admit Ballmer has failed at all, far less be upset that he’s been allowed to do so over thirteen years. But to answer your question, I think Cook deserves a minimum three years. Apple has so much positive momentum already that it will take that long to get a decent sense for his unique contribution. Complaints about Apple’s multiplier or the dividend aren’t even worth responding too.

          • Guest

            Three years sounds reasonable, but Apple hasn’t been as reasonable as we are. Tim is on a TEN-year contract. In 2022, if Apple is worth $240 billion less than when Tim took over, Tim still gets to take his massive pay package and laugh it up. By 2025, without major changes, we predict that Apple will still be profitable but will have been eclipsed in market value, profitability, and innovation by dozens of companies exploiting Tim’s lack of vision.

            Fire the board. Void the contract. Hire an innovator to lead Apple. Start over.

  • davidgeller

    Buy on rumor and sell on delivery. Should continue at this frenzied pace until the first week of September, then back off a bit as the iPhone 5 gets delivered. Wild card might be their TV plans. Love my TiVo but would love something better.

  • Michael Hazell

    This makes me said. I hate Apple. I still love my Microsoft even though I am moving to Linux.

    Microsoft has to come up with something new, although their online services are getting better thanks to the new UI redesign.

    • guest

      You’re right about them needing to come up with something new. Stock appreciation is primarily about growth and investor confidence in the company’s future. MS doesn’t have an abundance of either. Unfortunately, their management team and board appears to be completely unconcerned about the stock price, which itself is pretty amazing after THIRTEEN YEARS of declines. Either that or they’re in total denial about the real state of the company’s future prospects.

  • Joe McGrath

    Apple is not the biggest. Exxon Mobil is bigger, and if you look at revenues, substantially bigger (so is Walmart). What Apple is is the company with the largest market value. Apple has the highest expectations on future performance relative to current performance. It is not the biggest.
    To rationalize inflation out when talking about monetary numbers of a stated time period to justify an argument is flawed.

    • Guest

      Apple only bears a P/E ratio of about 15, meaning that investors’ expectations are quite modest. Google’s P/E is 20. Facebook’s is 69 even despite its recent drop. I think investors know that the days of an innovative Apple have ended; the company can now milk its cash cows as it releases point upgrades and incremental revisions to its once-unique lineup.

    • Bob

      The whole article is about “most valuable”. That’s accurate for Apple. So not sure what your complaint is? And Apple’s expectations aren’t that high. It’s trading at a forward P/E of just 15.6x, which is actually quite conservative relative to its current and expected future growth rate.

    • guest

      Revenue doesn’t equal value, the trick is about extracting value from revenue. Apple has done that better than most,it has certainly created a ton of value for its shareholders. Microsoft did that for a while, few criticized its valuation when it exceed Exxon’s more than a decade ago. Who knows how long Apple’s run will last, but it is no where near as inflated as Microsoft was. I fail to see your point.

  • guest

    Should title this piece the tale of two CEOs; Jobs a unparalled success and Ballmer an abject failure. I expect Google to pass MS’s market value next, followed by IBM. It’s amazing that MS’s shareholders haven’t called for his firing. And now it’s probably too late to avert MS’s fate anyway.

    • Mark

      Agree about Google passing MS next. But I think the takeaway from the chart is much broader than just the CEOs. Apple won because it was consistently able to outthink and outrun MS. That took better leadership at the top, which Apple has unquestionably had, but also required a culture of excellence throughout, almost flawless competitive assessment, highly effective application of very limited R&D, a laser focus on customer experiences, the best marketing in the industry, etc. It also required that MS be almost the mirror opposite on each of those points.

      The distinction is important because it’s inevitable that Ballmer will have to be replaced. And no matter how talented that person is, there will be limits on what they can accomplish if everything else at MS remains the same as it has been.

  • guest

    “I love our strategy. The board loves our strategy”

    – Steve Ballmer
    After all, what’s not to love? Oh right, this chart.

  • guest

    Wow. Jobs and Cook have managed to create more than $600 billion in new shareholder value during the same period that Ballmer has lost in excess of $360 billion. And the MS loss doesn’t include another $100 billion plus that Ballmer basically incinerated on buybacks that failed to move the stock.

    I’m sure Frank Shaw will have some creative excuse for why these results shouldn’t be compared. Hopefully MS shareholders have had enough of excuses and will finally vote for real change.

  • He’sDeadJim

    That flat red line reminds me of what I see on those hospital shows on TV….you know, those things that show the heartbeat.

    I’m trying to remember what a flatline means……oh yeah, you’re dead, that’s it.

    *shakes head*

  • Hashtag_david

    Time for the DOJ to step in and crush them with a monopoly suit…

    • guest

      Or just make Ballmer their CEO for a few years…

  • guest

    When you think of all the analysts, bloggers, former executives, anonymous employees, etc., who year after year beginning as early as 2003 started publicly questioning the direction of the company only to be told by MS’s arrogant management team and PR hacks they were wrong, this graph is irrefutable proof that those critics were right.

    Fire Ballmer. Fire the board. Start over.

  • WorstCEOEvah

    As bads as this chart is for MS, which is to say terrible, it actually seriously understates how bad performance has been under Ballmer. It suggests his only transgression is flatlining the stock, when in fact it has dropped by 50% since he became CEO. Even worse for the shareholders who held through that period anyway, it now looks likely that their future reward is to lose the other half of their investment.

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