Apple Hits Number Two on the S&P 500

Apple just took the number two spot on the S&P 500 in terms of market cap, which is a strong indicator that it’s among the most valuable companies on the planet. An interesting feat for a company that many predicted wouldn’t make it through the 90s.

Today I’ll take a look back at Apple’s long and rocky road to the top through the eyes of a self-proclaimed Apple nerd.

The Plight of a Mac User

I’ve been a Mac evangelist for the greater part of my life. I grew up in a world that loved Compaqs and Windows, knowing that Apple was the only only computer company that would ever have my allegiance.

Their slogan said it all “Think different.” I identified with Apple’s creed and business goals on a personal level and have always found my identity in thinking differently than the people around me. If ten people in a room share my opinion of something, I’ll change it just so I can argue against them.

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Grammatically questionable but iconic nonetheless

Growing up, being a Mac user was rebellious. It meant that I was breaking off from the main-stream and fighting against the over-bloated and innovationally-incompetent Microsoft. Everyone had heard of Macs but none of my friends had used one since playing educational games in elementary school computer class.

Telling someone you were a Mac user, especially if said person was a techie, was a great way to get them to roll their eyes at you and launch into an angry spiel about how much they hated Macs (again, most of them hadn’t ever really used one). I loved defending my stance and loudly proclaiming the obvious superiority of my chosen product.

Fast-forward a few years. A device called the iPod was suddenly compatible with PCs in addition to Macs and was consequently becoming something that every teenager either had or wanted. Normal every day non-artsy people were starting to think that just maybe, despite their crazy cult-like following, Apple wasn’t so bad.

By the time college rolled around, my openly-Mac lifestyle started earning less angry insults and more comments along the lines of “I wish I could afford a Mac!” Macs had gone from the red-headed stepchild of the computing world to the Porsche: few had one, but everyone wanted one.

Fast-forward one more time to today. A large portion of the people that I know, both those who said they’d never buy a Mac on principle and those who said they could never afford one, are proud Mac users. If they don’t own a Mac, they carry around a magical multi-touch iOS device and are absolutely addicted to it.

The Largest Company in the World?

The year I was born you could buy a share of Apple stock for around $2.00. As I write this article, Apple stock is selling at $278.64.

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Apple stock price over the years

It was recently announced that Apple is on the precipice of becoming the largest company on the S&P 500 in terms of market capitalization (stock price * shares outstanding), a financial term used to determine, among other things, a company’s stock valuation (and therefore its worth).

Only Exxon Mobile stands between Apple and the top spot and many analysts are predicting the two to flip positions sometime in the not-so-distant future. Who knew that trendy little music players and aluminum computers could be as profitable as the dirty crude that makes the entire world go round?

Now What?

We long-time Apple fans find ourselves in an interesting crisis of identity. When you’ve made a life out of rooting for the underdog, what happens when you wake up and realize they’ve taken over the world?

Suddenly we’re not “thinking different” but rather just like everyone else. Instead of drastically differentiating ourselves with hippie-inspired colored iMacs complete with convenient carrying handle, we carry around products whose design is instantly copied by every hardware company in the business.

So where does that leave us? As Apple rises to the top of the S&P 500 do we hold on tight, smile and say “I told you so” or set out in search of a new underdog in need a few good cultish followers?

As for me, I’ll take the former route. In the last ten years Apple has created some amazing products that have significantly impacted both the present and future of consumer-grade technology. Jobs and his team of wizards have earned their success by clawing their way back from a slump that almost killed the company completely.

Being an Apple fan may be the popular and predictably main-stream position, but I’ll get over it. It turns out it’s actually pretty nice when everyone agrees with you.