Apple, which nearly went out of business in the late 1990s, has become the most valued technology company, surpassing its one-time archrival Microsoft.
At the close of trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange Wednesday, Apple stock traded at $244.11, giving it a market capitalization of $222.12 billion. Microsoft stock closed at $25.01, which amounted to a market cap of $219.18 billion.
The Apple milestone reflected not only the success of co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs in resurrecting the company upon his return in 1997, but also the dramatically different landscape of the computer industry.
Once dominated by business sales, the PC industry today is driven by consumers. Indeed, Gartner predicts that computer sales to consumers will grow this year by 29.5% from 2009, while the business market will rise only 13.1%.
The shift has favored Apple over Microsoft, which rose to prominence by selling its Windows operating system and Office productivity suite to businesses. Since Jobs has taken the helm, Apple has focused its knack for consumer-appealing design not only on Mac computers, but on highly successful electronics, such as the iPod media player and the iPhone. Apple's latest new product, the iPad tablet computer, topped the 1 million mark in sales just 28 days after its release April 3.
On the other hand, Microsoft this week embarked on a major reorganization of its struggling hardware unit, which houses key consumer products like the Xbox, Zune and Windows Mobile. Microsoft has been losing ground to rivals like Apple and Google in the consumer segment, and the overhaul is seen by industry observers as an attempt by Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to reverse the trend.
Gone as a result of the shakeup are Entertainment and Devices Division president Robbie Bach, a 22-year Microsoft veteran who is "retiring" at age 48, and design and development senior VP J Allard. No replacements have been made.