How Apple Leapfrogged Microsoft

Includes: AAPL, MSFT
by: Market Blog

By David Berman

The New York Times pointed out on Wednesday that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has overtaken Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) as the world’s most valuable technology company, based on market capitalization.

With Apple shares up 1.8% earlier in the day, the iPod/iPad/iPhone/iEverything maker had a market cap of $227 billion (U.S.), nearly $1 billion more than Microsoft.

What’s more interesting here is the trend over the past decade. While Apple shares began to blossom about midway through the decade, rising more than 1000%, Microsoft shares have gone nowhere, rising all of 8%. Total. And that includes dividends.

There’s probably an investing take-away here. A lot of commentators like to point out that Apple was left for dead between 2001 and 2003, trading as low as $6.56. On the other hand, Microsoft has long been touted as a virtual monopoly, with its fingerprints on most PC operating systems.

Looking back, it might have been difficult for most investors to see Apple’s potential as it transformed itself into a music and entertainment behemoth. But as for Microsoft, the signs of its stagnation have been fairly clear: Who isn’t frustrated with its Windows products? What innovations has Microsoft delivered to customers over the past decade? And who sings the praises of its top leaders?