Apple is the biggest company in the world

With a value of $341.5bn, Apple has taken a bite out of Exxon to become top of the stocks - although that hasn't stopped it from fiercely protecting its IP...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 24 Oct 2012
Given the trabbocant devotion displayed by some of its fans, there was an air of inevitability about this: Apple has pipped Exxon to become the largest company in the world, with a market cap of $341.5bn (£210bn), just over the oil company’s $334bn. It’s largely thanks to the fall in oil prices which has hit producers all over the world. But it also marks a peak for Apple’s 14-year rampage over its competitors – the latest of which is Samsung, which has come a cropper over its iPad-alike.

It’s no wonder Apple’s popular: the company delivered $7.3bn of profits last quarter, while its share price hit $400 for the first time last week (just before the markets started to yo-yo). Although Exxon’s revenues still dwarf Apple by comparison, it managed to make $28.6bn last quarter – not small change, by any stretch of the imagination. Even as the markets were still looking decidedly dodgy yesterday, its share prices still jumped by 3.5% to $365.13.

Mind you, that’s not to say that Apple doesn’t have challenges to face. To begin with, there’s the dispute with content providers: everyone from Facebook to the FT is up in arms about recently-released terms and conditions which stipulate that it gets a 30% cut of any money they make from apps sold through the App Store (subscriptions, for example). And then there’s Google’s accusation that Apple and Microsoft over-paid for a portfolio of patents last year, in an attempt to ‘stifle’ the growth of its Android operating system, used by the majority of tablet computers.

So there is a sense that it’s not afraid to use dirty tricks: a reputation that hasn’t exactly been quashed by its triumph yesterday when it managed to persuade a German court to grant an injunction that will prevent Samsung from selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1, its equivalent of the iPad, everywhere in the EU except the Netherlands.

Apple argues that Samsung has infringed several patents (or, as it put it, ‘slavishly’ copied the technology behind the iPad and the iPhone), and is now seeking similar injunctions in the US, having already got one in Australia. Samsung, of course, protests vehemently, arguing that the German court didn’t even give it the chance to present any of its own evidence. It’s now countersued in South Korea, Japan, the US and Germany. Sounds like this is going to be long and messy – so don’t be able to get your hands on a Galaxy Tab any time soon…

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