Apple, the computer maker turned mobile gadgeteer, on Wednesday overtook Microsoft to become the world's most valuable technology company, seizing on optimism that the company will keep adding customers for its iPhone, Macintosh computers and iPad.
Apple's market capitalization — defined by a company's stock price multiplied by the number of outstanding shares — finished the day at $222.1 billion, surpassing Microsoft's $219.2 billion in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Apple also became the second-largest U.S. stock by market value, behind oil company Exxon Mobil, valued at $278.6 billion on the New York Stock Exchange.
After a 16 percent gain this year, Apple's stock climbed to a high of $252.13 in intraday trading. Chief executive officer Steve Jobs last month said profits almost doubled and sales soared 49 percent on demand for the iPhone. The results don't yet include the iPad, which went on sale after the close of the quarter for Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif.
Jobs, 55, said that Apple sold more than 1 million iPad tablets in the United States in the first 28 days after its April 3 debut and that demand is outpacing supply.
"Apple really checks all the boxes when you look at the tech sector," said Ryan Jacob, a fund manager at Jacob Internet Fund in Los Angeles, which has Apple as its top holding. "Do they have the opportunity to gain share in their markets? What are the prospects for margins? It's hard to find a company that you can have more confidence in than Apple."
The value shift underscores the changing fortunes of two technology industry pioneers. Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, has had mixed success expanding beyond its mainstay Windows operating system business into new markets, including mobile phones, Web search and gaming consoles.
Apple, on the verge of bankruptcy when Jobs resumed leadership in 1997, has transformed itself from the maker of Macintosh personal computers into a consumer electronics trendsetter with the release of the iPod music player in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad tablet this year.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., slipped 4.1 percent to $25.01 in Nasdaq trading. That marked the seventh straight day of declines, the longest streak of losses since February 2007.
"Microsoft has been extremely weak over the last month, under performing other technology stocks, and that's really what's moved Apple into the leading position in terms of market cap," Jacob said.