Turns out there's an asterisk, though. S&P calculates market cap using "float-adjusted" numbers, which leave out closely held shares that are not actively traded, including a bucketful that are held by Bill Gates. Put all those shares back in, and Microsoft is actually still worth about $25 billion more than Apple.
Despite this discrepancy, the point is that Apple's stock is getting pretty pricey. It's doubled in a year, and the enthusiasm for iStuff and shares seems boundless.
So is Apple a buy or a sell? Oh, probably. I'm not going to tell you which because (1) I'm not qualified to call stocks; (2) We don't do that sort of thing here on MoneyWatch; and (3) full disclosure: I'm married to a Mac nut who started buying iEverything, including a few shares of Apple, back when Steve Jobs (and said husband) were still kind of hippies.
But I will say this. There are more than a billion people in China to sell iPhones to, and more than 40 million Americans under the age of 10, who are probably already nagging their parents for iStuff, so Apple has some prospects. At 26, the company's price-to-trailing-earnings ratio is high, but not stratospheric. And, yes, iProducts are awesome.
But so are some products from competitors that are catching up, like the HP Slate, Android, the Kindle and even Pandora Radio, which could eat up some iProfits in the future. Steve Jobs won't be around forever. And trees never do grow all the way into space.
Photo by kyz on flickr.
More on Moneywatch:
- Apple Earnings of $3.33 a Share Easily Top Forecasts on Strong iPhone Sales
- Apple Stock Soars Before Earnings Report, but Growing Pains Lie Ahead
- Will Windows Phone 7 Make Microsoft the Next Cool Tech Stock?
- Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Dudley Calls for the Fed to Take Action Against Bubbles