CNN reported earlier this month that with an estimated stock market cap of $500bn, Apple’s latest fiscal high meant it was now worth more than Poland.
Given that Poland’s GDP in 2011 was a mere $470bn, the technology giant was not only more valuable than the European country, but was one of the world’s top 20 economies. Although an undoubtedly headline grabbing claim, it soon proved to be an erroneous one.
In fact comparing the two at all is like comparing apples and pears. Whilst Apple’s market cap is linked to the expected value of all its future profits, Poland’s GDP is the measure of the total value of all the goods and services produced by the country in one year.
In a more accurate assessment Apple’s ‘GDP’ was calculated as its total annual sales for the previous year, $127bn. Apple were, therefore, worth less than half of Poland’s comparative wealth, but nonetheless still the 56th largest economy in the world, approximately equal with Qatar.
It is interesting that such a story entered the headlines at all, for whilst there is rarely popular interest in the stock market, a fascination remains with the wealth of the corporations which furnish our daily lives. A typification perhaps of a larger cultural obsession with money, where wealth is an object of aspiration and power, and those who possess it points of collective interest. There is a strange level of deference applied to Apple and its comparative wealth in particular.
The website thingsappleisworthmorethan.tumblr.com lists Apple as worth more than the United States Aircraft fleet, 300 years of Irish beer consumption, the global coffee industry and two entire Apollo space programs, to name a few.
So why does the fascination with the world’s most valuable company continue? In an age of technology Apple is an almost omniscient presence in most people’s daily lives, and one which shows no sign of waning.
The sales figures themselves are staggering, with 37.04 million iPhones, 5.2 million Macs and 15.43 million iPads sold in the final financial quarter of 2011 alone, Apple’s cultural and technological dominance is a guaranteed fact of the immediate future.
Whilst Bill Gate’s Microsoft may have been the only company ever to break the $600bn valuation mark, its current market value sits at less than half this figure. In contrast it seems the appetite for Apple’s streamlined devices is both insatiable and expanding, if not quite enough to exceed the wealth of Poland.