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The surprising trend of tech stocks and dividends

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Apple's market valuation and outsized earnings made it an inevitable choice to be added the .That the company is also one of the market's biggest potential dividend payers didn't hurt.

"Establishing a dividend puts you on a track to look and feel like a grown-up company," said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at Covergex.

"It is sort of like trading in your jeans and hoodie for khakis and a button-down shirt," he said. "You put it off for a while, but most people give in eventually."

In the early wave of the tech boom, not paying a dividend was a badge of honor. As Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy notes, 15 years ago companies and tech investors were purely focused on growth.

"We always had to reinvest in new tooling and new chip designs," he said. "Our product life cycles were a year and a half."

McNealy said that for the new wave of cloud-based tech companies—like his new social-media service firm Wayin—the costs of retooling tend to be lower.

"So, you tend to mint money," he said.

But it is the old-line tech firms, along with Apple, that are minting bigger dividends for investors.