Amazon in Race for Market Cap Lead

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Now that Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has passed Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) in total market cap, what are the chances that the number three company by the same measure can catch up? Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), which holds this third place, is getting close to the two leaders.

Microsoft’s market cap is $851 billion. Apple’s is $847 billion. Amazon trails with a market cap of $826 billion.

Microsoft’s run to the top is based on its success across several businesses. Its cloud operation trails Amazon’s but is still a force in the sector. Its traditional server and office enterprise products remain the leaders across the tech world. It is also the dominant personal computer operating system and has successfully entered the personal computer hardware industry. Microsoft additionally owns the Bing search engine, LinkedIn and MSN portal business.

Apple’s largest problem and the reason it has fallen from the top spot is slowing iPhone sales. They remain the largest part of Apple’s revenue by far. Of its $62.9 billion in revenue last quarter, $37.2 billion came from iPhones. Mac and iPad sales were nowhere close. Neither was Apple’s service business, which many experts believe will be the key to Apple’s future growth.

The reason Amazon could catch both market cap leaders is that several of its businesses continue to grow rapidly. This is particularly true of its Amazon Web Services operation, the largest cloud business in the world. Of Amazon’s $43.7 billion of revenue last quarter, AWS was $6.7 billion. While it is a relatively small portion of overall sales, it is Amazon’s fastest growing operation. Amazon is the leader of U.S. e-commerce by far. More important, some of the parts of this business dominate its industry. Amazon has over 100 million Prime members worldwide. Each of these pays a subscription fee, a key to recurring revenue. Amazon is also a leader in streaming media and artificial intelligence software used in the home.

While each of the three companies holds a leadership position across several sectors, Amazon’s cloud business may be its trump card. Wall Street views the cloud business as one primary reason huge tech companies can continue to grow rapidly. That is why Amazon has a chance to pass both Apple and Microsoft in market value.