OK, This Really Puts The Microsoft-Apple War In Perspective

chart of teh day, Market capitalisation: Microsoft Vs. Apple, 05/24/10

As we’ve noted, Apple’s market capitalisation is now one relatively good stock-market day away from surpassing Microsoft’s.

This may not be surprising to the folks who have fallen in love with Apple’s products in the past several years, but to those who were around in the late 1990s, when a collapsing Apple was bolstered by a cash injection from Microsoft, it’s remarkable.

And here are a couple of statistics that really put it in perspective:

  • As of yesterday’s close, Apple had a market cap of $223 billion, versus Microsoft’s $228 billion.
  • A decade ago, when Steve Ballmer took over as CEO of Microsoft and Steve Jobs had recently reclaimed the CEO slot at Apple, Apple had a market cap of $16 billion and Microsoft had a market cap of $556 billion [Nick Wingfield, WSJ]

In the past decade, in other words, Apple has gained about $210 billion of market value and Microsoft has lost about $325 billion. Put differently, a decade ago, Microsoft was worth $540 billion more than Apple.

Steve Jobs has certainly earned his $1 salary.  And it’s a good thing Steve Ballmer is paid $1.25 million a year–because the value of his stock in the company has been cut in half.

By one key measure, moreover, Apple has already surpassed Microsoft’s value.  As of yesterday’s close, once the companies’ stock market capitalizations are adjusted for the value of the cash and debt on each company’s balance sheet (“enterprise value”), Apple’s business was worth $200 billion and Microsoft’s was worth $197 billion.

Talk about a changing of the guard.

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