Last updated: May 27, 2010 1:11 am

Apple’s market value overtakes Microsoft

Apple has overtaken Microsoft to become the largest technology company by market value, crowning a stunning corporate comeback.

After more than three decades of rivalry between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the founder of the iPad maker saw his company take the lead on Nasdaq.

When the New York markets closed on Wednesday, Apple was worth $222bn – short only of ExxonMobil. Microsoft was valued at $219bn.

The moment says much about how technology and business strategies are changing. But it is above all a triumph for a chief executive who has defied conventional wisdom and taken big risks in new industries with entrenched powers, overthrowing the establishment in the music and mobile phone businesses and staking out new ground.

Mr Jobs was punished for Apple’s early stumbles with his dismissal in 1985. He returned with the same determination to deliver a vertically integrated bundle of hardware and software but reined in wilder engineering ambitions.

Mr Gates put his software in so many places that the US justice department for a time sought to break Microsoft apart.

Yet the men once went on double dates, indulging their fascination with each other.

“Gates was recognised for being a great businessperson but wanted to be seen as visionary. Jobs was recognised as visionary but wanted to be seen as a great businessperson,” said Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.

“With Apple eclipsing Microsoft in market cap, it really is Steve Jobs’ proof that he’s a great businessperson and that he achieved what he always envied about Bill Gates.”

Apple’s most recent full-year revenue was $36.5bn, close to double the level of three years before but shy of Microsoft’s $58bn.

But Apple’s profit is growing more rapidly. Its net income has nearly trebled in three years to $5.7bn, while Microsoft’s profit has only inched forward.

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