By the Numbers

Apple's Rise, Dell's Demise


The mid 1990s was a tumultuous period for Apple Computer . The computer maker was quickly losing market share as their premium-priced hardware failed to attract a broader following. Also plaguing Apple was the failed launch of its latest piece of technology - the Newton handheld - in which the company had invested a great amount of resources over the years.

Its struggles and falling stock price triggered two chief executive changes in as many years. First, it was CEO Michael Spindler who gave way to Gil Amelio in 1996. Then just one year later, Amelio himself was fired, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs took the helm as interim CEO, with Apple's stock slumping around 12-year lows, hovering around the $3-$4 range.

At the time, the outlook for the company was far from encouraging. In fact, shortly after Jobs assumed his duties as interim CEO, rival Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computer , was asked at an IT conference what he would do to fix Apple Computer.  Dell's response: "What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

How the times have changed though. On the heels of yet another impressive earnings report on Monday and the unveiling of its consumer-oriented iMac line of computers on Tuesday, Apple's stock has defied all expectations, approaching all-time high levels once again, largely on the success of its iconic line of iPod music players.

Since 2003, Apple shareholders have had much to cheer. In many ways, the company has turned the tables on rival Dell Computer. Continuing a recent trend, shares of Apple (up 133%) have far outperformed shares of Dell (up 50%) this year. In fact, prior to this year, in each of the past 6 calendar years, Apple's stock has dramatically outpaced shares of Dell. Furthermore, for the four straight years between 2005 and 2008, shareholders saw Dell's stock price fall each year.

Most impressive, since the end of 1997, Apple has surged a jaw-dropping 5,957%, while Dell and the Nasdaq Composite has gained just 46% and 38%, respectively.

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