Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has a valuation of $2.17 trillion and was the first company to pass the $1 trillion level on August 2, 2018. It topped the $2 trillion level on August 19 of last year. However, it has not always held the top spot on the market cap list. Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) moved ahead of it on November 26, 2018. Apple took the lead back, and now the spread between it and the three other companies with market valuations above $1 trillion is substantial.
Apple’s road to a large advantage over Microsoft, the second most valuable company with a market cap of $1.61 trillion, has been paved largely by two things. The first is the new iPhone 12. It is expected to sell 200 million units this year. That will be driven by features like an improved camera. However, its real advantage is that it runs on new superfast 5G networks, which have become the gold standard of the wireless world.
The other leg of Apple’s rising value has been provided by its fast-growing services business. It breaks out the revenue of this as “Services” in its financial statements. Last year, Apple’s revenue barely rose from $260 billion the year before to $275 billion. Services revenue, on the other hand, rose from $46 billion to $54 billion. This was driven by sales from the Apple App Store, music, Apple Pay and the Apple TV line of services.
Microsoft’s position has its base in the rise of its cloud computing operations. Cloud computing has moved to the core of the technology business worldwide, and that has only improved, financially, during the pandemic. Microsoft ranks second on most lists of cloud computing market share. That success gets added to its ongoing strength in the operating systems for computers and servers, its relatively new hardware success and its games business.
Next behind Microsoft, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has a market cap of $1.56 trillion. No other large American company has been helped as much by the spread of COVID-19. Consumers, shut-in and unable to go to traditional retailers, have flooded Amazon with orders for everything from toilet paper to consumer electronics to food. Amazon Prime’s video streaming business has also been lifted as people forced to stay home ravenously watch streaming video. Finally, Amazon holds the top spot in the cloud computing market, a segment critical to its overall top-line growth for several years.
Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) sits in fourth place among the $1 trillion public corporations at $1.17 trillion. The parent to Google, the world’s search advertising leader, and YouTube, it finds itself the most troubled of the four firms. Advertising, in general, was dented by the pandemic. It has come back somewhat, but the pandemic continues to threaten it. And the U.S. and EU governments have come to view its search business as a monopoly, which may pressure it to spin off one or more of its businesses.
It will take a large run-up for Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA), the fifth company on the market cap list at $783 billion, to cross the $1 trillion barrier. However, its shares have risen 558% in the last year, so it would be a mistake to count it out.