Microsoft shows tech staying power in top 10

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 22 Jan 2024
Microsoft maintains market dominance as the most valuable company 20 years on.
Microsoft maintains market dominance as the most valuable company 20 years on.

Microsoft is the only technology firm that still features among the top 10 most valuable companies, more than 20 years after it was named the world’s biggest company.

The software giant, which has a market cap of $2.9 trillion today, is the second-biggest company after multinational tech company Apple, based on insights collected by City Index that reveal 2023’s biggest companies according to market capitalisation.

For its analysis, City Index says it gathered historical data, compiling information on the top 10 companies for each year.

The market cap per company for each year was obtained or inferred in accordance with historical data either from their own archives or from readily available archives. Additionally, market cap values were cross-referenced and changed when needed in accordance with multiple readily available sources.

At the time of publishing, Apple and Microsoft were tied at $2.96 trillion, in terms of market cap. However, Microsoft briefly overtook Apple last week, to become the world's most valuable company.

According to City Index data, technology dominated the stock market in 2023, with seven technology companies among the world’s biggest.

It notes Apple was the world’s biggest company in 2023. Microsoft was in second place, with Google parent Alphabet and Amazon rounding up the top five most valuable firms. They are followed by Nvdia, Meta (Facebook) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in sixth, ninth and 10th place, respectively.

“Apple is the most valuable company in history, having a market cap of $3.03 trillion in 2023. Apple was founded in 1976 and went public in 1980. Only in 2011 did it become the world’s most valuable company for the first time, with a value of $350 billion. It replaced ExxonMobil at the top,” according to City Index.

“It was the biggest company in the world for most of the 2010s, and in 2018 became the first US company to surpass $1 trillion in value. It then surpassed $2 trillion two years later.”

City Index indicates that with its current value, Apple accounts for 11% of the gross domestic product of the US.

It lists Microsoft as the second-biggest company in 2023, with a market cap of $2.51 trillion. This, according to the trading company, has been largely driven by its Microsoft Azure cloud computing services and its stake in ChatGPT creator OpenAI.

“The products that saw it dominate in 2000 – including Windows and Office – are still a big part of its revenues. Microsoft was also the world’s most valuable company in 2000. Adjusted for inflation, it is worth over three times that today ($2.51 trillion).”

In recent years, Microsoft has made significant investments in emerging technologies, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI). Generative AI came into the spotlight with OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, ahead of the launch of Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing AI.

Microsoft also partnered with Facebook parent Meta to unveil its ChatGPT rival: the Llama 2 open source AI model.

E-commerce giant Amazon, which intends to launch in South Africa this year, has a market cap of $1.6 trillion, based on present day estimates. City Index data shows Amazon’s market cap was $1.3 trillion in 2023.

Despite the jobs losses onslaught at Google, Alphabet was valued at $1.5 trillion in 2023, according to City Index. Alphabet’s market cap currently sits at $1.8 trillion.

The biggest companies in 2000
The biggest companies in 2000

Much like today, City Index indicates technology companies had prominence on the stock market in 2000.

Companies like Microsoft, Cisco and Intel occupied half of the top 10, compared to only one (IBM) 20 years earlier. Only two oil and gas companies were in the top 10 in 2000; namely ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

“In 2000, Microsoft was top of the stock market, worth $586 billion ($1.03 trillion today); however, it was badly affected by the dot-com crash. By March 2001, its value had dropped to $258 billion, less than half of its peak. This was partly due to the ruling of the United States vs Microsoft case, in which Microsoft was found guilty of monopolisation.

“However, in 2003, it became the biggest company in the world again, and the biggest tech company in the world up until Apple’s rise in the early 2010s.”