May 28th, 2010
02:27 AM GMT
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Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the biggest tech company of them all?

To judge from the headlines this week, the fight is over and Apple has won.  “Upstart Apple steals Microsoft’s crown,” says the Times of London. “Apple now bigger than Microsoft,” wrote the BBC. “Apple topples Microsoft’s throne,” crows CNNMoney.

Speaking on a road trip in New Delhi on Thursday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the software giant was still the most profitable tech company in the world.

So who is right?

Apple’s eclipse of Microsoft is based on one measurement of a company’s worth: Its stock price.

By market capitalization, which is based on stock price, Apple for the first time shot ahead of Microsoft with a value of $222 billion on Wednesday, about $3 billion more than Microsoft. (Both are still far behind the world’s most valued company on Wall Street – Exxon Mobil, with a market capitalization of $278.6 billion).

What about profitability? According to Factiva, Microsoft’s net profit margin is nearly 25 percent compared to Apple’s 19 percent (so, score Ballmer).

Who is bigger in terms of number of people it employs? No contest – Microsoft has nearly three times the number of employees with 93,000 (although Dell Inc. beats them both with 94,300).

But who sells the most tech products in the world – Apple? Microsoft?

Neither. By sales, the world’s number one technology company is South Korea’s Samsung Electronics (which took the mantle from HP earlier this year).

So do these 'bragging rights' matter anyway?

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