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Apple on Top of the World

{complink 379|Apple Inc.} is on top of the world, figuratively and in some ways literally.

At approximately $470 billion as of Monday morning, its market value almost equals the combined capitalization of {complink 2294|Google} ($199 billion), {complink 3426|Microsoft Corp.} ($257.8 billion), Yahoo Inc. ($20 billion), and Research in Motion Inc. ($8 billion). Apple has more cash and investments ($97 billion) than any other technology company, and its revenue growth rate (66 percent in 2011) is hotter than a scorching afternoon in the Sahara.

As if to rub some salt into the competition's festering wound, {complink 8429|Harris Interactive Inc.} today proclaimed Apple the world's most valuable brand (no surprise). Apple claimed that slot for the first time since Harris began monitoring the value of global brands 13 years ago. In doing so, it displaced Google.

And Apple did it in grand style. It had the highest rating ever recorded (85.62) in the Harris poll, and it was ranked No. 1 by the 17,000 people polled in four out of six categories: financial performance (naturally), products and services, vision and leadership, and workplace environment. The high ranking is even more striking because the number of companies posting a score higher than 80 (signifying an “excellent reputation”) fell by half from 2011, according to Harris.

The polling firm said this about Apple and the rest of the field:

Customer inclination towards strong leadership and technological innovation may be the catalyst, and it is within this environment that Apple reigns supreme. This year regional brick-and-mortar retailers are more prominent, and many once-leading American companies are noticeably absent from the 2012 Harris Poll RQ study, which asks the general public to measure the reputations of the 60 most visible companies in the country.

Of course, the death of founder and former chairman/CEO Steve Jobs contributed to the outpouring of goodwill toward Apple. But there's more than fond remembrances of an industry icon at play here.

Apple's ascendance coincides with the warm and fuzzy feeling consumers have developed for technology companies, according to Harris. Recent technological innovations and the speed with which the electronics industry (led by Apple, I should note) has introduced products that are increasingly functional, engaging, and intuitive have endeared the industry to consumers. The scary days of arcane Microsoft DOS codes have vanished, succumbing first to the more user-friendly point-and-click computer mouse and now to the tap-slide-and-drag ease of smartphones and tablets.

Technology has become such an integral part of everyday life that the companies that do a good job of facilitating easy use of these devices will continue to rate highly with consumers, Harris said. Companies whose products also reach across multiple market segments are receiving higher ratings because their offerings indicate responsiveness to customer needs, rather than silo engagements.

“We are seeing the emergence of a group of companies that garner reputation equity by being positively associated with multiple industries,” Robert Fronk, executive vice president and global corporate reputation practice lead for Harris Interactive, said in a press release. “Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon.com combine innovation and leadership across multiple business areas, giving them true competitive advantage.”

Just in case anyone thinks Apple is resting on its laurels or doesn't care about recent complaints about alleged labor violations at its contract manufacturers, the company said today that it has asked a major labor organization to audit “conditions at its final assembly suppliers,” according to a Wall Street Journal report. The Fair Labor Association will review working conditions at {complink 2125|Foxconn Electronics Inc.} facilities, starting with a plant in Shenzhen, China, Apple said.

“The inspections now under way are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports,” Apple CEO Timothy Cook said in a press release issued Monday.

Unprecedented? Yes. But Apple is finding itself in quite a few unprecedented positions. If it continues to win sales as well as hearts and minds, it will probably be racking up many more records in the years ahead.

17 comments on “Apple on Top of the World

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    February 13, 2012

    I recently visited a large US mall and went in to the Apple, Microsoft and Sony stores.  All had very similar look and feel but even though I reckon the Sony shop had the most varied and coolest demos it was by far the quietest store.  Apple was full of shoppers and had a really busy feel.  It shows you the power of the brand.

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 13, 2012

    Kudos to Apple for taking steps to have its partners' factories audited by a third-party. And I can't disagree that Apple's popularity has a lot to do with the simplicity of its devices. I wouldn't go so far as to use the term “warm and fuzzy”–I know too much about Apple, Steve Jobs and its manufacturing partners for my own good–but if their customers feel that way they are doing something right–and better than anyone else, it seems.

  3. bolaji ojo
    February 13, 2012

    Barb, Like you, I know too much about Apple's modus operandi for my own good. Undoubtedly, the company has great products and it has lit a fire under the industry. Many of its rivals are, sad to say, followers rather than leaders. My first PC was a Macintosh and while I don't currently own one today, I used one until about a year ago.

    Whatever complaints one has about Apple, the company is having a major impact on the industry. It's not a “warm and fuzzy” company to me but it sure thumps the opposition.

  4. DataCrunch
    February 13, 2012

    @FLYINGSCOT – I didn't realize Microsoft was opening retail stores.  They haven't reached a mall near me yet.  How was the foot traffic?

  5. _hm
    February 13, 2012

    I wish Apple return some of its fame fortune to American Society – which give them all this. They should invest in two type of educational institutes – Primary/middle school and advancce research programs. This may be very good time to do this.

     

  6. Susan Fourtané
    February 14, 2012

    _hm

    Why do you think Apple should return some of its fame and fortune to the American society only? Is it that the rest of the global consumers haven't contributed to Apple's fame and fortune? At this point Apple is a global company and the give and take should be that way: global, not local as you suggest. 

    Supporting education and research programs would be a wonderful think to do, indeed. 

    -Susan 

  7. Susan Fourtané
    February 14, 2012

    Apple taking the step to order an audit was  logical since the beginning. Interesting is going to be what Foxconn is going do, how it is going to proceed, and if there will be changes. Also, what kind of new contract agreements will Apple and its suppliers will have in the future? 

    -Susan 

  8. mfbertozzi
    February 14, 2012

    @Bolaji: it would share your interesting perspective; going further, I would say till a recent past, feeling was that holding and using Apple products (it doesn't matter which one) have represented a “status” for people, mostly for products' design instead of features inside. Right now, and taking in consideration any newspaper or squawk on TV are telling us about financial crisis abroad, is it still true?

  9. Daniel
    February 14, 2012

    Bolaji, as a product base company Apple can be in the top of the revenue earning list. They had a good amount of reserve cash and planning to introduce new products like Ipad 3, Apple TV etc. But we had seen the recent green peace reports and Foxconn issues which are directly pointing to Apple. In such a situation, I would like to know, whether they are able to maintain this net assess value and profit in coming years, provided if they are spend a part of such revenue for better labour welfare and addressing the environmental issues.

  10. bolaji ojo
    February 14, 2012

    Susan, Apple is indeed a global company. It generated 65 percent of its annual sales in 2011 outside the Americas and manufactures all of its hardware products outside the US. Is the rest of the world benefitting from Apple's success? Yes. In various ways. Apple has a large chunk of its cash, short and long-term investments outside the U.S. It has kept this outside the U.S. because it would have to pay tax on the money once it's repatriated.

  11. Jay_Bond
    February 14, 2012

    I hadn't realized Microsoft was opening retail stores either. It looks like they have about a dozen with a few more opening soon. Looks like they also set up appts, presumably to dedicate a specialist. I guess I just can't see these stores competing with Apple, or even Sony.

    http://content.microsoftstore.com/Home.aspx

  12. t.alex
    February 14, 2012

    Microsoft must be really into hardware business to open retail stores. This is a surprise.

  13. TimKarr2000
    February 14, 2012

    Bolaji:  This report gives new meaning the the term “The Big Apple”.  Good for them, and great for us.

  14. Houngbo_Hospice
    February 14, 2012

    It is good to hear that Apple is concerned about workers' right violations and hopefully they will take actions to provent that from happening again. We also want Apple to be on top of the stainability and green awareness battle as well.

  15. _hm
    February 14, 2012

    Apple has to start from its counrty of origin – USA. They can cultivate talent from different parts of the world and America always do. Once they fine tune the process and its results, they can enlarge scope to other countries.

     

  16. Susan Fourtané
    February 15, 2012

    Bolaji, 

    Then we can't say Apple doesn't want to invest in the U.S. It's just a matter of what the best for the company is, and its ROI. Business is business. 

    -Susan 

  17. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 17, 2012

    I wanted to update our readers on the following: Foxconn has reportedly given its workers a raise. Link below:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46427617/ns/business-world_business/

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