May 26, 2010: Apple, which was on the verge of bankruptcy 15 years ago, overtook Microsoft to become the most valuable technology company in the world. Microsoft and Apple competed in technology back in the 80s and 90s when their CEOs, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, were looking to conquer the tech world.
Microsoft and Apple: sworn friends
Microsoft first rose to prominence by making software for the Mac. When Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985, Apple CEO John Scully signed an agreement with Gates to license Microsoft to use some of the Mac technology in current and future programs in exchange for continued software development for Apple. The fallacy of this decision was fully exposed when Microsoft released Windows to compete with Mac. This was followed by a lengthy lawsuit over Microsoft stealing the “look and feel of Mac elements”.
Windows computers were cheaper and more affordable, and with the introduction of Windows 95, Microsoft dominated the industry. Although Apple was much more profitable than Microsoft in the beginning, by the mid-90s it was on the verge of disaster due to bad decisions and Mac clones.
When Jobs returned to the bankrupt Apple, a cash injection from Microsoft helped save the company from bankruptcy.
Change of positions
Change began in the late 1990s. Thanks to the success of the iPod, iPhone and iTunes Music Store, Apple is profitable again. On May 26, 2010, Apple was valued at $222.12 billion against Microsoft’s $219.18 billion. Both tech giants achieved high returns, but Microsoft had more cash.
The only US company larger than Apple was Exxon Mobil, with a market capitalization of $278.64 billion.
In 2018, Apple surpassed $1 trillion, becoming the first publicly traded company in history to break that milestone.