We’re the biggest and now we’re going to blitz Google’s Android says Apple’s Steve Jobs

Not bad for a company once derided for making niche computers. But Apple’s current market capitalisation of around $274bn is now way ahead of Microsoft’s $219bn and closing fast on the long-time biggest company in the world Exxon Mobil at $331bn. It has already overtaken another oil giant PetroChina which was briefly the biggest last year.

But it’s not competing with oil giants of course although it is happily knocking its tech rivals into the proverbial cocked hat.

Apple’s sales, driven chiefly by the iPhone, soared 67 per cent year on year in its most recent quarter to reach $20.3bn, catching up rivals IBM ($24.3bn) and Hewlett-Packard ($30.7bn) fast. In its last reported quarterly results Microsoft’s sales were $16bn (it doesn’t make expensive boxes). Microsoft is narrowly ahead of Apple in the profit stakes ($4.5bn against $4.3bn). Google’s last quarterly sales were $5.48bn although it did make $2.17bn profit on them.

Market cap, by the way, is the number of shares in issue multiplied by the share price. Apple has 913m shares in issue compared to Exxon’s five and a half billion. So when Apple’s share price is more than five and a half times Exxon’s, it’s officially the biggest.

But Apple’s Steve Jobs is never one to rest on his laurels and he used the announcement of Apple’s results to claim that his iPad (which sold 4.2m units in the quarter, disappointing some analysts who were expecting it to sell 5m) would triumph over the many rivals about to appear that will use Google’s Android operating system.

He said that accusations that Apple’s system was ‘closed’ against the open system Android was a smokescreen, the reality being that Apple’s combination of hardware, software and third party commerce applications was more integrated and would therefore work better.

He also said that Apple had no intention of launching a 7″ iPad alongside its 9.7″ model as that was too small a screen for all the functions iPad offered. This, alongside price, will be one of the key factors in the battle against Samsung, Toshiba, HTC and others as their smaller (in some cases) and cheaper products come on the market.

He also helpfully pointed out that iPhones were now outselling BlackBerries and he expected to regain the lead in US smartphone sales from Android (which powers about 100 different models from various manufacturers) before Christmas. In January US telecoms giant Verizon will start selling iPhones.

As for iPad sales and some analysts’ disappointment with them (Apple shares fell after hours yesterday) 4.2m (up from 3.3m in the preceding quarter) is hardly bad.

These days you need a computer of some description and a mobile. You don’t actually need a very pricey tablet however nice it might be to have one. 4.2m very expensive toys seems OK.

As for that possible dividend we wrote about yesterday, no word from Jobs. Which means the company is sitting on $51bn in cash.

What on earth will he do with it all?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.