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Apple's market value passes $600bn

Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPLnews) today became only the second company ever to be valued at $600bn
(£379bn), although shares in the iPad maker could not in the end defy a
broader decline on Wall Street.

Shares in Apple climbed in early trading, which was enough to send the
company’s market value past the $600bn mark. The only other company to
achieve the feat was Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFTnews) in 1999 during the height of the dotcom
bubble.

Despite a fitful economic recovery in the US and a recession in Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSDnews) , the
Silicon Valley company has managed to increase sales in what one analyst has
dubbed the spread of ‘Apple fever’ around the world.

Wall Street is expecting Apple to deliver a more than 50pc increase in profits
to $9.2bn when it releases its results for the first three months of the
year later this month.

The prospect of Apple launching a television product, and its announcement
last month that it will begin paying a dividend, has prompted some on Wall
Street to argue that the shares will be trading at $1,000 within a year.

The challenge that Microsoft faces in clawing back ground in the tablet market
was underlined today by a new forecast from Gartner (NYSE: ITnews) , a technology research
firm.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, is betting that the introduction
of Windows 8 later this year will help wrest share from Apple because the
operating system will be available on more tablet computers than the current
version.

Gartner, however, only expects Microsoft’s share of the market to climb to
11.8pc by 2016 and to be held back by its lack of appeal to the consumer.

“Despite PC vendors and phone manufacturers wanting a piece of the pie and
launching themselves into the media tablet market, so far, we have seen very
limited success outside of Apple with its iPad,” said Caroline Milanesi, an
analyst at Gartner.

While Apple’s products wow consumers, chief executive Tim Cook has pledged to
improve working conditions at supplier factories in China that were heavily
criticised in an independent report late last month. It remains unclear what
impact the changes will have on Apple’s profitability.

Shares in Apple were 0.4pc lower at $633.77 in early afternoon trading, after
climbing as high as $644 earlier in the day.

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