updated 09:34 pm EDT, Tue September 18, 2012
Stock has risen 86 percent since co-founder Jobs died
When iconic co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs passed away from cancer in October of last year, many wondered if his company could continue the pace of innovation, popularity, high-quality products and record profits that had marked Apple's ascendency since the turn of the 21st century. While just shy of a year is perhaps too soon to say definitively, Apple has flourished in the 11 months since then, and has further cemented its "most valuable company" status by closing over $700 per share for the first time.
The official close on Tuesday was just shy of $702, and while down slightly in current after-hours trading is still above $701. Earlier, the stock hit an intra-day high of $702.33, bolstered by news that Apple had sold more than two million of its new iPhone 5 devices in pre-ordering, with a sellout of all reserved units in the nine countries that will initially get the iPhone. It had flirted with the $700 mark on Monday but closed just pennies shy of the goal.
Stock of the new version will still be available in limited quantities at stores and resellers come Friday, but are expected to sell out there as well over the course of the debut weekend. Pundits have pegged Apple as being able to move upwards of 10 million units during its first three days on sale, with the pre-orders providing a solid indicator of early success.
The sales reflect roughly a doubling of what the iPhone 4S sold in pre-orders, and Apple said that its own pre-orders -- which began at 3AM last Friday -- were gone in about an hour. Though excitement was tempered in the tech press by widely-leaked advance photos and specifications, mainstream customers appeared to be thrilled by the improvements in weight, screen size, camera, processor speed and the iOS 6 features, as well as the addition of LTE compatibility and the restyled look of the product.
Apple's stock has risen 85.57 percent since Jobs' death, driven largely by solid profit margins and the continuing -- and still rising -- popularity of its core products, from the industry-changing iPhone to the steady but slower-growing Mac lineup. The company's market value now sits above $658 billion, the most valuable publicly-traded company in the world.
Some of the credit for the milestone rightfully belongs to Jobs, who chose a solid executive team, planned well in advance and created a culture capable of attracting some of the most talented technologists in the world. However, CEO Tim Cook's steady hand at the wheel, along with the ongoing work of both executives and engineers at the company has played a significant role in keeping Apple's market momentum going. While the company has largely coped with Jobs' loss by further refining its biggest products, Apple has also been executing innovations on a smaller scale, including disrupting the textbook and e-publishing industries, continuing Jobs' fight against copycat software and hardware designs, and with rumors of future products including its own branded HDTV.