This week, Microsoft surpassed General Electric to become the world's largest company, as measured by market value. Microsoft's move into the number one spot came thanks to a small stock price increase, which gave the company a market capitalization of over $299 billion. GE, by contrast, has a market capitalization of just over $295 billion.
Microsoft had held the number one spot once before, when it pushed past GE for most of 1999. But GE had been ranked number one since April 2000, after a brief stint behind Cisco Systems. Microsoft, Cisco, and GE, of course, have been hit hard by the sliding economy. Despite being among the largest companies in the world, both Microsoft and GE have market capitalizations that are less than half their peak values.
Microsoft will unleash a torrent of new products this fall in a bid to keep investors happy, however. Chief among these products are Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1), Windows .NET Server, "Mira," "Freestyle," and the Tablet PC. Then, the company will jump aboard the beta treadmill once again with field tests of new product versions, including Office 11--due in 2003--and Windows "Longhorn," which probably won't ship until 2004. Both Office 11 and Longhorn will begin testing before the end of 2002, the company has said.