Apple, Microsoft, IBM: who’s top?
WSJ is one of many sources which reported:
Apple Inc. is now the most valuable U.S. company of all time, another milestone for a company often credited with changing the tech, telecom and media industries.
The stock gained 2.6% to close at $665.15 Monday, giving Apple a market value of $623.5 billion, according to FactSet data. The previous record belonged to Microsoft Corp., which was valued at $616.3 billion in December 1999, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
Columbia Journalism Review rubbished this claim:
Apple is not the biggest or most valuable company in history—not by a longshot. That’s because the press is overlooking reality for the apparently irresistible pull of a headline that includes “Apple” and “record”—pageview gold.
Apple’s $622 billion market cap is a nominal record, which means “in name only,” or alternatively, not really. That’s because it’s a record only if you don’t adjust Microsoft’s 1999 market cap for inflation (ADDING: Microsoft doesn’t even hold the record, apparently. IBM in 1967 was worth at least $1.3 trillion in today’s money. I’ve updated my subhead to correct that MSFT’s isn’t a record). Sorry, but you have to adjust any number like this that’s that old for inflation—it’s comparing apples to oranges not to do so.
It takes $1.38 in today’s dollars to equal the same value as one 1999 dollar. That means Microsoft’s peak market cap in 1999 was actually about $856 billion in constant dollars, $235 billion more than Apple’s current market cap.
TechTree dug deeper:
Apple is not the most valuable company in the history of the world. It’s not even Microsoft, which was reported to have been toppled by Apple today.
It’s IBM by a long shot.
Apple’s $661 billion market share does not account for inflation. With inflation in account, IBM remains the historic winner with a 1967 value of $1.3 trillion.
Accounting for inflation, $1 in 1967 is worth $6.85 today. In that year of systems and mainframes, IBM had a market capitalization of $192.3 billion. Don’t account for inflation and sure Apple is the winner.