Well not Apple, but me - via the international press. But hey, it's hard to deny Apple is on a roll, despite much scepticism around the world - and even here amongst commenters on Mac Planet.

People have said it couldn't be done. That Apple was a flash in the pan. But Flash is on the way out and Microsoft just got passed by Apple in market capitalisation.

When this was mentioned as a possibility a month ago, it was thought it might happen by the end of this year, unless Microsoft's fortunes turned around.

But here we are just a few weeks after and, at 4pm New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, on May 26th, Apple's market value was at US$222.1 billion (around NZ$326.04 billion). Microsoft's was US$219.2 billion.

As galling as that may be to those who hate Apple with such an unreasonable and seething passion (it's just a device company, for goodness' sake!) Bloomberg Business Week says that makes Apple the most valuable technology firm in the world.

It also makes Apple the second-largest US stock by market value. It's only behind oil company Exxon Mobil Corp, which is valued at US$278.6 billion on the New York Stock Exchange.

Why has Apple been so successful? Many say it's because Apple is 'just' a marketing company. I absolutely refute this. Apple has brought innumerable innovations to market over the last three decades, and even creates the manufacturing processes to make its products as good as Apples insists they have to be. Besides, Apple hardly does any real marketing (think Carlsberg, Nike, even Toyota for marketing campaigns that readily spring to mind).

But Apple was 'just' a computer company for two decades. Then it changed its name from Apple Computer to Apple Inc and expanded both its range of devices and its services (iTunes, MobileMe, the App store).

Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy when Jobs resumed its leadership in 1997. Since then the maker of 'just' Macintosh personal computers has become a consumer electronics trendsetter with the release of the iPod music player in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and then with this year's release of the iPad tablet.

The iPad is so successful it has, somewhat bizarrely, shown Europe responsible for 25 per cent of iPad mobile traffic even before it was officially available there.

This is according to AdMob data, which shows even New Zealand iPad use is up there, almost level with Greece which has a population of over ten million.

As you may know, the iPad only went on sale in Europe on the 28th May. This was after the AdMob data was released, so I leave you to imagine what those iPad figures may be in a month's time.

AdMob also found that, in the US, there were 10.7 million iPhone devices and 8.7 million Android devices. If you include the iPod touch, there are 2 to 1 iPhone OS devices compared to Android.

Overseas, the gap is even wider: 3.5 to 1 iPhones to Android devices. I wonder what it is in New Zealand?

But iPad is now officially on sale in Australia, plus in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. We get ours in July, actual date TBA, but Apple is rumoured to be doubling iPad production to keep up with demand.

After all, a million were sold in the US in 28 days, beating the iPod and iPhone records (iPhone took a few months to reach a million sales).

New Zealand is 35th in the world for iPhone use, in the AdMob data- that's of a list of 88 countries, and ahead of countries with populations way larger than ours, like South Africa.

Microsoft may be the world's largest software maker, but has had mixed success expanding beyond its mainstay (the Windows operating system business). Microsoft needs new markets and has dabbled in mobile phones, web search and gaming consoles.

Of course, it's not only up against Apple, but Google and others. Apple, for example, is now responsible for 70 per cent of all digital music sales in the US. Who would have thought, ten years ago? Only Steve Jobs.

Of course, none of this means Microsoft is on the ropes. Far from it - as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told reporters on Thursday "It is a long game. We have good competitors, but we too are very good competitors.

"Let's see what happens as I am still pleased that 94 times out of a 100 somebody picks a Windows PC," he said.

To me, that's just like the fact there are more people shopping at The Warehouse than Smith and Caughey. You pays yer money and you makes yer choice. Some of it just ends up in landfill a lot sooner.

But Joe Wilcox at Betanews reckons, as with other tech behemoths before it, Microsoft's products are simply being rendered irrelevant by new technologies, new ideas, and new products that have come out of the blue and swept them aside.

Wilcox says that Windows is a cash machine, sure, but so was the IBM mainframe monopoly before the dawn of the PC era.

The DOS/Windows PC didn't destroy IBM or its mainframe monopoly, but did radically diminish its computing and informational relevance.

"Windows is on the same track. The mobile device-to-cloud applications stack will merely displace Windows' relevance. It's inevitable."

That's not my call to make. I know Microsoft works pretty closely with Apple engineers, that a new version of Office:Mac is coming, and that Microsoft's networking is now the de facto networking standard on Macs.

There are many talented people at Microsoft. They absolutely can come out of this, with the right direction, and there are innovations coming that we know nothing about - from Apple and from Microsoft. And from Google ...

Nowadays, Apple market share is 6.8 per cent in Europe, and around 10 per cent in the US. But French Mac site Hardmac's figures show a two-point growth in Europe in one year, and that, also, was before the iPad went on sale in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

It wasn't that long ago that Apple sat at between two and three per cent market share, depending on region. Meanwhile, the crowd that crowed 'the iPad will not make a dent in the netbook market' may also have been proved wrong.

A Retrevo poll, with a sample size of over 1000 individuals of different genders, ages, incomes and location who considered buying a netbook last year, were asked: "Did you hold off on buying a netbook after the iPad was announced in January?"

The results - 40 per cent waited to buy a netbook until after Apple announced the iPad, while 30 per cent didn't wait.

The remaining 30 per cent abandoned their netbook plans and went with iPad instead.

I know what I'd prefer.

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com