Back in the early nineties when I started using a Mac I certainly wasn’t cool. I was an outcast, a stranger in a Windows dominated world. I still remember buying my first Mac – a Performa 400 with a 40 MB hard drive – in a shabby shop somewhere downtown. People didn’t understand me, wanted to conform me back again to the status quo: Microsoft. By the end of the nineties Apple was almost bankrupt, desperately trying to survive. The survivor came in the person of Steve Jobs who brought along a nifty operating system, called Next OS. But not only that, he also convinced Bill Gates himself, seen as an arch enemy by then, to invest $150 million in Apple. In return, Internet Explorer was set as a default browser on each new Mac.

From then onwards it went pretty fast. First came the iMac, then OS X, the iPod, the iTunes Music Store, the iPhone, the App Store and now the iPad.

The value of a company can be calculated in many ways. One way is to take the number of shares and multiply these with the value of these shares. This is called the ‘Market Cap’ of a company and is used on Wall Street to determine how companies perform next to each other. Without surprise, the Market Cap of Microsoft around the Millennium was enormous: around $500 billion. Apple was next to nothing, hovering around $5 billion.

Last week the tide has turned. For the second time in history (the last time was in 1989) Apple surpassed Microsoft on value and has now a Market Cap of $228.56 billion (Microsoft has $228.12 billion). Only Exxon is now a bigger company, having a market cap of $282 billion.

With the seemingly enormous success of the iPad, and more coming this year, Apple – in my opinion – is certainly on track to become USA’s biggest company. Only $1 billion more in revenue and it surpasses Microsoft in revenues as well. As far as Operational Margin is concerned, Apple has been the darling for Wall Street for a long time, obliterating every margin from a hardware manufacturer by far: Apple on average has 30%, whereas HP for example has only 5%. Competition is warming up, and once close friends suddenly become rivals in the digital arena. Google for example, once a close alley now has Apple in it’s sight and is competing on the OS and mobile phone market (Android) and has now also entered the web TV area (Google TV). Microsoft is not impressed, although pretty silent. They recently announced a reorganization of their Entertainment business (now reporting directly to Steve Ballmer) and is expecting to sell about 30 million MS phones later this year. The next iteration of Office will rely heavily on cloud-solutions, just as Google Docs.

Interesting to see that the three behemoths of the digital space, Apple, Microsoft and Google are converging into the same space. Only the future will know which one os these will be crying, and which one will be dancing in circles.

I’m sticking to the Mac for now. And the shabby shop downtown has been replaced by an Apple Premium Reseller. Much better.

More information here.

*) “Tetelestai” is the Greek translation of the Biblical words: “It is finished”

Better late than never

Google finally reclaimed a bit of their ‘Do no Evil’ promise and stops censorships of their search results in China.

Google was blocking certain search results on http://www.google.cn, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre on request of the Chinese government. No doubt some commercial interest was in play here.

Recently Google found out that some GMail accounts of Chinese dissidentes were being hacked on a rather sophisticated level. Although they do not claim that this was the work of the Chinese government, they did put a rather form statement online.

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

Way to go Google. Information must be free and one should always rest assure that your private data should remain free. The main downside of this strong action of course is that the Chinese people will have to bear the consquences and have to do without Google.

It’s a long way to a perfect world.

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