Apple Inc. Surpasses Microsoft to Become the Most Valuable Company Ever

By Anu Passary | Aug 21, 2012 10:22 AM EDT

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Apple, Inc. has added another feather to its cap. From being the most valuable tech company in the world, the Cupertino-based tech giant has swooped in on the title of highest-valued company ever.

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In 2011, Apple earned the distinction of being the world's most valuable tech company.

Rumors about the impending iPhone 5 debut skyrocketed the company's stock value on Monday, Aug. 20, increasing its market value to $624.6 billion. Apple's NASDAQ-listed shares showed a growth of 2.6 percent or $17 from Friday's closing figures, touching the $664.74 mark and bettering it with $665.15 in after-hours trading.

The soaring stock value makes Apple the highest-valued company in stock market history, surpassing Microsoft's $622 billion record, which was set in 1999. Currently, the Redmond-based firm is valued at approximately $257 billion, a decline of 60 percent from its peak during the dotcom bubble period. Earlier in July this year, despite posting record revenue figures, Microsoft reported its first-ever quarterly loss.

Apple's record rise from $10 billion and $100 billion in 2004 and 2009, respectively, reflects its market dominance. Analysts assert that Apple's iPhone revenues generate more than Microsoft in its entirety. Apple's net worth exceeds that of Microsoft and Google combined. Some analysts even forecast that Apple will be the first company to top the $1 trillion market capitalization figure.

On Aug. 17, the Wall Street Journal reported that Jeffries analyst Peter Misek "boosted his price target (for shares) to $900, from $800". Misek also predicted that the iPhone 5 could be "the biggest handset launch in history."

Apple's iconic iDevices - iPhone and iPad, coupled with the company's Midas touch, have been instrumental in its success story.

Apple ousts its nearest competitor for the title - oil major Exxon Mobil (worth $405 billion) by nearly $200 billion. However, Apple's market value does not take inflation into account, and according to Techcrunch "With inflation in account, IBM remains the historic winner with a 1967 value of $1.3 trillion."

However, not all seems rosy for the Cupertino tech giant as naysayers question whether the company will be able to live up to Steve Jobs' legacy and remain a leader or become a follower. In the post-Jobs era, some claim that Apple is trying to fit into existing product structures and replicate the success of its rivals. The shift to the purported 7.85-inch iPad Mini or the 4-inch iPhone 5 seems to be a step in this direction, an attempt to thwart competition from the popular 5-inch plus smartphone and phablet offerings.

 "All the products made under [Apple chief executive] Tim Cook's tenure have been tweaks to existing products. One of the companies' big successes, the iPod line, is in decline and they are going to have to replace that," said Van Baker, VP of Gartner Research.

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