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New King of Technology: Apple Overtakes Microsoft

Miguel Helft and Ashlee Vance|The New York Times
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 | 3:32 PM ET

Apple, the maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads, overtook Microsoft, the computer software giant, on Wednesday to become the world’s most valuable technology company.

Apple Store
Apple Store

In intraday trading in the afternoon session, Apple shares rose 1.8 percent, which gave the company a value of $227.1 billion. Shares of Microsoft declined about 1 percent, giving the company a market capitalization of $226.3 billion.

The only American company valued higher is Exxon Mobil , with a market capitalization of $282 billion.

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This changing of the guard caps one of the most stunning turnarounds in business history, as Apple had been given up for dead only a decade earlier. But the rapidly rising value attached to Apple by investors also heralds a cultural shift: Consumer tastes have overtaken the needs of business as the leading force shaping technology.

Microsoft, with its Windows and Office software franchises, has dominated the relationship most people had with their computers for almost two decades and that was reflected in its stock market capitalization. But the click-clack of the keyboard has ceded ground to the swoosh of a finger across a smartphone’s touch-screen.

“It is the single most important turnaround that I have seen in Silicon Valley,” said Jim Breyer, a venture capitalist who has invested in some of the most successful technology companies.

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