Microsoft Briefly Took Over Apple As the Most Valuable US Company

Posted on November 26, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, Microsoft with 37 Comments

Microsoft briefly took over Apple as the most valuable company in the United States. The company’s shares rose by 2.1% on Monday, with Apple’s shares falling by 0.7%.

Apple, which was valued at $1 trillion just back in August, has faced a continued decline in its share prices due to declines in iPhone sales. Microsoft, on the other hand, has been growing steadily mainly thanks to its cloud business. The company’s market cap briefly hit $812.93 billion, crossing Apple’s $812.60 for a brief moment today, reports Bloomberg.

Many major tech companies — including Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook has faced somewhat of a troublesome time in the stock market. Microsoft’s shares held up comparatively well at around the same period, however. This also isn’t the first time Redmond took over Apple’s market cap, and with such fluctuations in the stock market, expect to see more of this going forward. We can only really congratulate Microsoft once it steadies its position as the most valuable company, after all.

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “Microsoft Briefly Took Over Apple As the Most Valuable US Company”

  1. Avatar

    lvthunder

    I don't see how you can attribute Apple's drop due to rumors of declines in iPhone sales when most of the market has been down lately. It could just as easily be profit taking.

    • Avatar

      Elindalyne

      In reply to lvthunder:

      Their stock dropped like a rock after the last earning call because of the lower than expected projected growth going forward. All the rumors are just reinforcement to the notion that we've hit peak iPhone and we're not going to see crazy growth again in the near future.



    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to lvthunder:

      Given their some of their suppliers have issued profit warnings, because Apple have cut iPhone orders by as much as 30% and Apple stated they won't be reporting volumes from now on, it is fairly obvious that many investors will be looking to get out while the going is "good".

    • Avatar

      darrellprichard

      In reply to lvthunder:

      59% of APPL revenue last quarter was attributed to iPhone sales - and even Apple admits that market has reached the saturation point. Their answer? Just increase the price of all their hardware to maintain enough margin to keep the stock afloat. Not a consumer-friendly tactic but a way to try to support the stock and avoid an even bigger sell-off.

  2. Avatar

    michael_babiuk

    There is a "Cult of Mac" (yeah, I know. Grin) article that debunks this conjecture. You can read it if you want to gain a different perspective.


    The main points are (and quoting from the article) "In fact, Apple continues to lead Microsoft with a valuation of $817.6 billion to Microsoft’s $791 billion. The incorrect reports were caused by confusion about Apple’s number of outstanding shares, used to calculate market cap. Microsoft is definitely getting closer, though!"


    And, "At time of writing, AAPL is trading at $172.29. MSFT, on the other hand, is at $103.07."


    Does any of this matter in the long run? Of course not - for all non-owners of Apple or Microsoft stock. But it is important to get the facts right in any case.



  3. Avatar

    Randall Lewis

    Yeah, I'm going to take the word of Cult of Mac over Bloomberg when it comes to stock price explanations.

    • Avatar

      michael_babiuk

      In reply to Randall_Lewis: That same Bloomberg that reported extensive Chinese Government electronic server hacking? Good source!
      But consider the logic behind the accusation that Bloomberg made another error in reporting. Bloomberg said Microsoft "briefly" overtook Apple for the top spot and then ... fell behind.
      OK. Let's see. Apple's valuation is currently $818 billion. MSFT is $791 Billion. According to Bloomberg, MSFT went from something like $791 billion to over 818 billion and then fell back to 791 Billion. (Very Briefly - I am laughing out loud at that.)
      That is some kind of financial stock market roller coster! And guess what? No other financial publication reported that type of volatility in Microsoft stock
      No. Bloomberg made a mistake in reporting - again.


  4. Avatar

    remc86007

    Heavily diversified vs not heavily diversified. One of these strategies works in the long run.


    This is why I don't understand Apple's blasé approach to their Mac lineup over the past few years. Four years ago, I would argue that OSX was in a good place compared to Windows. Now, in part because of Apple's refusal to spend R&D money on its Mac hardware lineup, I think they are behind and continue to fall further behind. I think we are quickly approaching a time where phones will be mere commodities that are replaced only when they fail, not upgraded. At the same time Apple is stretching for higher margins rather than trying to go for market share which is becoming harder and harder to get. I don't get it. I hope Tim Cook has a plan; he seems like a nice guy. Lucky for him, Apple has enough cash to survive a couple years of mistakes.

    • Avatar

      Jorge Garcia

      In reply to remc86007:

      They can honestly survive a couple DECADES worth of mistakes, unfortunately :)

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to remc86007:

      I was a Mac fan until they ruined the Mac for many reasons (form over function, removal of magsafe, dongle hell, kraptastic keyboard, etc...etc...etc).


      That said Apple has the numbers and we do not. If the Mac is not a huge money maker they know it and by all counts they are tipping people towards iOS and its product line. They will merge with a custom Apple ARM based Mac with 80% iOS and 20% Mac OS. A touch based Mac and a iPad that can you use a pointing device in one device that has millions of apps. Not for everyone but 80-95% of consumers probably.

      • Avatar

        Jorge Garcia

        In reply to Stooks:

        I believe you are right about the MacBooks' future. That type of 80/20 product should have been released back in 2016 to be honest....there is no technological reason why it couldn't have been. Many commenters and YouTubers call this long overdue interface "PadOS". The longer they wait to hybridize the iPad, the more mindshare they will lose to chromebooks.

      • Avatar

        Oreo

        In reply to Stooks:

        Apple is in a position to offer both, touch-based and mouse-based computers, and as long as there is money to be made from selling Macs, they will continue to sell Macs. Plus, they are building more and more smaller computers — the Apple Watch but also each of the AirPod earbuds is a tiny computer. That'll be a big component of the future where *everything* will have a tiny computer built-in.

    • Avatar

      Boris Zakharin

      In reply to remc86007:

      Microsoft's diversity doesn't really exist given that the cloud business is the only major healthy growing performer (with XBOX and Surface being minor ones). Apple has the iPhone in this slot, so I don't see much of a difference. Google may have the most diverse moneymaking ventures with search, Android, and Chrome.

  5. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    Shouldn't that be overtook rather than took over?

  6. Avatar

    Rob_Wade

    Who really cares about this? I just don't understand why this is a thing. Other than as an investor, does ANYONE make purchasing decisions based on which company is most valuable? Seriously, this is just noise.

  7. Avatar

    Jorge Garcia

    Apple is like the High School jock whose star burns fast and bright for a little while and who gets all the girls with his biceps and his winning smile...then has to go work at a shoe store for the rest of his life after his senior year. Apple, by its flawed nature (seller of "luxury" electronics and computers?) SHOULD have gone bust in 97, but unfortunately they were bailed out by none other than Microsoft....who is the equivalent of the class nerd who did all of his homework, and now has a ton of boring but SUSTAINABLE income.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to JG1170:

      Ah, of course, the Al Bundy 'phone.

      • Avatar

        Jorge Garcia

        In reply to wright_is:

        I was waiting for someone to get it :) But the analogy holds (or at least it will hold, eventually, much further - 20 years? - down the line) Al Bundy should have studied harder his senior year and Apple should have diversified a lot more and a lot sooner. Apple could have leveraged their early smartphone dominance very differently, namely by diversifying and democratizing their product lines in such a way that they would build a much bigger user base for their future services...but instead they chose to be the "electronics maker to the stars" and as a result they will eventually take their place next to the Cadillacs and Jaguars of the world...which is fine...but we're talking circuit boards here, not hand-stitched leather upholstery, so there WILL come a point where, just like in the 80's and 90's, it no longer makes sense for the best software houses to develop the best software for that one isolated, proprietary company in the corner that is only pulling in 5-8% of the World's eyeballs. For the time being Apple does pull in by far the wealthiest eyeballs on earth, and that's what counts of course, but years down the road that model will no doubt prove as unsustainable as IBM's too-little too-late O/S 2 model. Just ask Atari, inc. what it was like to go from being the one company completely synonymous with video games to complete irrelevance in about 7 years. That won't happen as brutally to Apple, of course, but it does prove consumer sentiment can turn on a dime. Also compare the Sony of the 80's to the Sony of today. The PlayStation is the only thing keeping that once-dominant and bulletproof outfit above water.

        • Avatar

          Oreo

          In reply to JG1170:

          Fundamentally, I think you just use the wrong measure of success, revenue and profits. What matters to most users is whether a company makes great products, and this is the yard stick I prefer to use. Profit matters only insofar as we want a company that makes product we like stay in business. During old-school Microsoft's heyday, they had a very clear vision — a computer on every desk, and if you talk to Bill Gates, I reckon he is (rightfully) proud to have achieved this vision. And it'll be immeasurably more important to his place in history than what Microsoft's (and hence, Gates's net worth is).


          On an infinite time scale, will Apple fail? Eh, yes, everything dies eventually. But you paint a picture that frankly does not really correspond to reality. Even Apple's “smaller” product lines are usually huge if you look at the corresponding market. When you measure the Apple Watch against either the watch market or the fitness device market, the Apple Watch is humongously big and successful. Garmin, one of the giants of the fitness device market (relatively speaking) pales in comparison. The Mac business unit would be a Fortune 500 company and one of the biggest computer manufacturers world wide just by itself. Plus, its services division is now also very big in terms of revenues.


          You analogize Apple to Jaguar, but what if Apple is the BMW or Mercedes of the computing world? These companies have made luxury cars for decades and are very successful by deliberately choosing not to compete with other manufacturers in the “affordable and sensible car” segment. (Whether they will get wiped out by the electrification of drive trains remains to be seen, but IMHO this is not a problem of them being in the luxury segment.) You getting your analogies wrong stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what Apple's strengths and weaknesses are. Its business model is to build customer loyalty through better products. Their products attract valuable customers which are more valuable to advertisers, app developers and such, because studies show they spend more money on apps, for example. This is what counts for the viability of the iOS ecosystem. IBM's OS/2 had strong competition, as did Atari and Nokia (which is probably the most recent giant tech company to essentially disappear). What is Apple's competition here? Microsoft surely isn't. As best as I can tell it is mostly Google with Android, but Android is far, far less profitable for Google than iOS is. Nor is it so obviously leaps and bounds better than iOS that iOS's market share is shriveling.

          • Avatar

            Jorge Garcia

            In reply to Oreo:

            I'm not saying Microsoft, or anyone else will trounce Apple at any particular thing, especially not at the hardware or product loyalty game...I'm just saying that Apple's model is by its nature a rock-star "live fast and burn bright" model that will certainly crest AGAIN at some point (I feel it just has)...whereas conversely Microsoft and companies LIKE Microsoft are wisely investing in areas that can and probably will see them growing, or at least treading water financially (in a good way), for decades to come.

            • Avatar

              Oreo

              In reply to JG1170:

              Building customer loyalty is hard, and the opposite of “living fast and burning bright”, because that is something you need to sustain for the long haul. You really seem to want to misunderstand what singles out Apple as a company. And what has protected Apple against “flaming out” is precisely that they have broadened their line-up and let one thing take over after another has run its course, e. g. the iPhone replaced the iPod as Apple's main money maker. And perhaps the iPad will replace the Mac, and the Watch might replace the iPhone for many. That is Apple's insurance policy: breadth of product lines and being OK with one product line cannibalizing another.


              Along the way, Apple acquired more and more expertise at building ever smaller computers. That seems like a very safe bet for the future.

              • Avatar

                Jorge Garcia

                In reply to Oreo:


                We don't really disagree on much. You're just looking at a 5-10 year, western-centric timeline/graph, while I'm looking at a much broader 80-year graph that includes China and India becoming massive (3B) tech users that will almost completely ignore Apple in all of their tech purchasing decisions. (BTW I don't think it's that unreasonable to assume that both MS and Apple will still be in business 40 years from now, they'd have to screw up really bad to fully implode...although it could easily happen to either) So whereas I can see MS creating some future peak in profitability on that graph, I only see Apple making two visible peaks on that graph...one peak in the late 70's/80's with the advent of the Apple ][ ...culminating with their near-bankruptcy and bail-out, and another (very broad) peak starting with the iMac "renaissance" era and peaking/topping literally today. I do see the upcoming "iPad as a PC era", lucrative as it may be, as still being part of the downward slope of the second broad peak on that graph....a slope which will of course level out at some point just like Rolex's sales leveled out at some sustainable level (for them). I'll end this. I know I'm just being annoying at this point.



                • Avatar

                  Oreo

                  In reply to JG1170:

                  First of all, I'm a permanent resident in an Asian country, so I don't think my point of view is as Western centric as you probably think it is. Nor do I think that my outlook is limited to a 5-10 year time span. Right now Apple has been and is further moving into the luxury segment of the market, and if you instead of plotting revenue share, you plot profit share, pretty much no one is making money with the exception of Apple and to a much lesser degree Samsung. And that is the way Apple products are treated e. g. in China. If you have money to buy a car, probably you don't want a Chinese car, but a European car (be it from Germany, England or Italy). You want it precisely because it is a luxury item, and the difference in price is not necessarily justifiable in pure objective measures. So in volume, you are right that in developing countries (you should also include Africa here), Apple will play a much smaller role. But that won't necessarily be true if you look at profit share. A sign that Apple's dominance in an otherwise healthy market is waning is if its profit share collapses.


                  We broadly know where the future is going with computing: more and more devices that currently are not powered by computers will be powered by more and more powerful computers. That could be loudspeakers (à la Amazon), earbuds, watches or heart rate monitors. And the utility of these devices will be unlocked by software. (That is why in the sports wearables market, two smartwatches with identical optical heart rate sensors or GPS modules can have data output of very, very different quality, and analysis tools of very different quality.) Thirdly, there will be more cloud integration. Do you think any of these three points will stop being important in 10, 15 years's time?


                  And while we can argue where Apple's largest weaknesses lie (I'd say its more advanced cloud services), it has all three. Google and Microsoft, I'd say have 2.5 down (they do make hardware, some of it even very good, but just at much lower volume). Huawei does not own its own software platform (they derive theirs from AOSP) and they are not a presence in the cloud market, nor does it make enough money to develop solutions of their own. Microsoft makes a bet on the backend. While that is relatively safe at this point, there are still plenty of high-powered competitors, ranging from AWS to SAP. While Microsoft is certainly not a company that is easily intimidated, we should keep that in mind. But these backend-focussed companies actually need devices their software and services run on.


                  Speaking of luxury car makers, you also see the trouble they are in, and it is not because the Chinese have figured out how to make better traditional cars (which convert dinosaur juice into locomotion) — electrification and the change in how cars are owned and used. About 40 % of the material costs of an electric car are due to the battery, and none of the German car companies started early enough to invest into R&D. That means a large part of the profit share for each electric German luxury car sold goes to someone else. Tesla could stop making cars today and still survive as a company that makes large scale battery storage which are necessary when you make more and more electricity with renewable energy. Traditional car companies can't compete with that. If anything, a situation like this will be what brings Apple or any of the other big tech giants down — asymmetric competition.

                • Avatar

                  Jorge Garcia

                  In reply to Oreo:

                  I wanted to stop but...

                  "pretty much no one is making money with the exception of Apple and to a much lesser degree Samsung"...That is something that gets brought up a lot but is a bit deceptive now. It makes it sound like all the other players are doing it out of love and not for money. In Q2, Apple made 62%, Samsung about 17%, and the Chinese makers combined got about 21% of all the profits. That pie chart is a far cry from the 90%+ share they used to have year or two ago. And the only reason they are able to sustain that grotesque share is because they REALLY soak their customers when it comes to pricing ($1000 for a $400 device)...and due to the loyalty you talk about, they are still able to get away with it, but that type of "soak em while they are new and gullible" model does not last forever. They are still benefiting handsomely from the fact that a large percentage of the population was/is "new" to mobile technology and is therefore willing to pay more for "comfort", and due to loyalty, that WILL continue, at a level state, in the US for a good long time, but demographically, I only see that faction getting smaller over the next 20 years. Barring them pulling another iPhone-sized rabbit out of their hat, I just don't see how they continue to make $400 profit and each and every electronic device they sell...it's just not sustainable indefinitely...even though it appears to be if you just look at the last decade in isolation.

                • Avatar

                  Oreo

                  In reply to JG1170:

                  I still read an undertone of “Apple is ripping off its customers”, and I don't think this is accurate. They have way better software support than Android*, by far the fastest hardware and are clearly still trendsetters (when it comes to technologies such as usable and fast fingerprint scanners or visual cues like the notch). We can argue whether it is worth the price they charge, and whether a company should be able to cling to 40 % margins, but Apple's reputation is earned and not based on the gullibility of its customers.


                  * My sister recently replaced her old Samsung with a new one, and was oscillating between an old flagship that would receive no further software updates (Samsung does that only for two years) and a newer, crappy model that would get two years of updates, but has worse hardware. WTF. You can still use an iPhone 5S with the latest and greatest version of iOS. I plan to keep my iPhone 7 for another two or three years.



                  "pretty much no one is making money with the exception of Apple and to a much lesser degree Samsung"...That is something that gets brought up a lot but is a bit deceptive now. It makes it sound like all the other players are doing it out of love and not for money.”


                  Why is that deceptive? Compared to its market share, it has an outsized profit share. Apple is exploiting its advantages here: it is going after the premium market segment (that inherently has higher margins) with premium products and a unique, vibrant software ecosystem. Other manufacturers only have a single choice of OS, Android, just like all of your competitors, and most of them rely on other companies for SoCs, screens and other key technologies. That makes them replaceable. Who cares if your Android phone is from Huawei or Samsung?



                  Barring them pulling another iPhone-sized rabbit out of their hat, I just don't see how they continue to make $400 profit and each and every electronic device they sell...it's just not sustainable indefinitely...even though it appears to be if you just look at the last decade in isolation.”


                  That is because there isn't another product like the smartphone for the foreseeable future — a product that most people on earth want and is quite expensive. People would abstain from sex rather than give their smartphones away. So yes, strategies have to change to adapt to the saturation and maturation of the smartphone market.


                  And you can already see how Apple is shifting: Apple's strategy is no longer to sell its customers a single device, but they add AirPods to your iPhone and your Apple Watch. The reason is clear: smartphones are an established piece of technology and there is no reason to upgrade every two years. (It is also better for the planet.) That's why Apple has increased the prices for its phones, to keep the cost per customer and year stable when you account for the longer life span.


                  You may not like that, my wallet certainly won't, but looking at it from Apple's perspective, that seems like a reasonable very-long-term strategy to me.

          • Avatar

            Jorge Garcia

            In reply to Oreo:

            Apple's competition is Huawei and whatever brand latches on best in India.

          • Avatar

            Jorge Garcia

            In reply to Oreo:

            I just think that it's at least somewhat plausible (in my mind likely) that in 20 years Microsoft, by investing early and heavily in a lot of boring infrastructure type businesses, could be raking in double the amount of dollars as Apple, who might still only be making very nice hardware, and a few niche services for that sliver of Americans and Europeans who still care.

    • Avatar

      dontbe evil

      In reply to JG1170:


      you disappointed many apple fans with this comment

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to JG1170:

      Don't let your hate and facts get in your way. Apple has been printing money for at least a decade now.


      Jobs came back in 97, the iPod came out in 2001, they switched to Intel on their Mac's in 2005? The iPhone came out in 2007. So yeah at least a decade of printing money probably more.


      At one point the iPhone for about 1.5-3 years??....made more money than ALL Microsoft products combined.

      • Avatar

        Jorge Garcia

        In reply to Stooks:

        Yeah my analogy is flawed and admittedly ridiculous, but I still think that in the very long term arc of PC history, Apple's best days are behind it whereas other more tortoise-like companies like Microsoft may outshine Apple, at least from a value/money-making standpoint (again, long-term, very long-term).

        • Avatar

          Oreo

          In reply to JG1170:

          There's always non-sense about Apple's best days being behind them, and even the thought that “Microsoft may outshine Apple”, at least financially seems to be based on a complete rejection of reality. You seem stuck in 1990s-style Apple vs. Microsoft talk when reality has long passed. Apple and Microsoft are by and large no longer competitors. Apple's focus are consumers and Microsoft is evolving into a services company. Windows and Office are no longer Microsoft's core business concerns, they are just part of their services they offer.


          Apple has a supremely successful business model, with extremely high customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. People go back to buy Apple products, because they are by and large satisfied with them — the numbers speak for themselves. Microsoft has gone the way of IBM, and the latter is still very successful. It is just that if you compare the IBM of my childhood that sold printers, PS/2 PCs and such in no way resembles what IBM is today. And that is good, because IBM survived even if its printer business did not. Will Microsoft and Apple still exist in 30 years? Probably, who knows? But if they are, I bet they look nothing like the companies they are today.

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