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Why Apple is the most successful company in history

Mike Elgan | Feb. 17, 2015
Mike Elgan provides insights as to why Apple is way more successful than you think.


Everyone knows that Apple had a great fourth quarter and that its most successful product line, the iPhone, is doing better than ever, too.

But it's difficult to grasp what a mind-blowingly successful company Apple is until you take the time to gather and digest news about the company that has emerged in the past week or two.

I've done it. And it has become obvious to me that Apple is not only successful, not only the most successful company in technology, not only the most successful company in the world but the most successful company in the history of companies.

Is that an extreme statement? Maybe. But let me make my case, and we'll see if you disagree.

Here are the 11 ways that Apple is the most successful company in history.

1. Apple is the world's most valuable company

At the close of markets Thursday, Apple's value as determined by its stock price was $728.35 billion. That's nearly twice the market value of the world's second most valuable company, Exxon-Mobil.

Some experts disagree with the market about the value of the company. Activist investor Carl Icahn thinks Apple is "dramatically undervalued," and is actually worth $1.25 trillion.

2. Apple is the world's most valuable brand

Several organizations rank global brands on various metrics, and all the major ones rank Apple's as the world's most valuable brand. For example, the Forbes list ranks Apple's brand as twice as valuable as Microsoft, the world's second most valuable brand, and far more valuable than Google, the third.

3. Apple makes more money than any company ever

Apple recently reported revenue of $74.6 billion and a mind-blowing $18 billion in profits for a single quarter, which is the largest quarterly earnings of any company ever.

This is astonishing especially by comparison. The big money maker is the iPhone. In an industry with dozens of major players and hundreds of minor ones, where most companies lost money, some break even and actual profits are extremely rare, Apple by itself earned 93% of all smartphone handset profits in the fourth quarter.

4. Apple's cash flow problem is that it doesn't spend enough

Apple reported a cash hoard of $178 billion. That's literally enough cash to buy every car company in America and still have billions left over.

Most of that money is offshore (in Ireland, actually). Apple can't invest it or return it to investors without also breaking records in the paying of taxes, which Apple doesn't want to do.

5. Apple has crushed (or co-opted) all rivals

Apple is famous for its rivalries. Under Steve Jobs,  Apple spent nearly $1 million in 1984 on a Super Bowl commercial vilifying IBM as "Big Brother."


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