In the Apple economy, only Apple gets really rich

This morning’s Observer column.

Microsoft is a huge and important company. But guess what? It’s in danger of being dwarfed by an outfit that it once regarded as a joke. In terms of market capitalisation, Apple passed Microsoft ages ago. When I last checked, Apple was valued at $364bn, compared with Microsoft’s $230.5bn. And at the moment, there is only one other corporation in the world – Exxon Mobil – that is bigger than Apple.

Last week, Apple unveiled results that suggest even Exxon may not be safe from the relentless growth of Steve Jobs’s empire. Apple made a net profit of $7.31bn on revenues of $28.57bn for the quarter ending in June. That's the best three months it’s ever had, with revenues up 82% and profits up 125%. The company also revealed that it’s sitting on a $76bn cash mountain. Just to put that in context, Apple could currently buy both Tesco and BT and still have some loose change. The news sparked an 8% rise in the share price, with the stock breaking the $400 barrier for the first time.

So is Apple the new Microsoft? Answer: no – and the quarterly results explain why…

LATER: Even stranger is the revelation that Apple has more cash in hand than the US Federal government.