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Google, Microsoft spar to be tech's also-ran behind King Apple

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On Monday, for the first time ever, Google pushed past Microsoft to become the world's second-most valuable tech firm. Now it has fallen back to the number three spot, but with a difference of just over $1bn in market cap between the two, it may be just a matter of time before the Chocolate Factory grabs second place from Microsoft once again. Apple remains the world's most valuable tech firm.

A 30 per cent share price rise over the past three months saw Google's (GOOG) market capitalisation hit $249.19bn on 1 October, putting it ahead of Microsoft (MSFT) then valued at $247.44bn. Microsoft shares have remained largely steady for the past three months. Apple (AAPL) is way ahead of both with a market cap that currently stands at $619.91bn.

The software-sellers have always been valued higher than the search engine - whose revenue comes from online advertising. Google lost its lead in the share trading that followed in the next two days, and the two companies are still jostling closely for position, but at time of writing Microsoft had come out back on top with a total value at $248.65bn, compared to Google's market cap of $247.56bn. But it's a significant milestone for the tech industry and a marker of a changed environment.

Microsoft still churns through more business than Google, making more revenue than Google. In the year ending 29 June Microsoft's revenue was $73.72bn, to Google's $43.16bn.

But several factors have played in Google's favour recently, making the search company more attractive to investors. Firstly, the fact that their prime rival in the arena of online marketing - Facebook - has fallen on hard times, and its model of social search and social advertising has come under increasing pressure.

Growth in mobile markets compared to a flatlining PC market is another reason Google looks to be in better shape than Microsoft. Its 2005 purchase of Android Inc means that Google is now the biggest player in mobile by units shipped.

And then Google has been rationalising its product range and cutting its cul-de-sac products. All welcome news to Wall Street types.

On the world's most valuable companies list (by market capitalisation at the time of writing), Apple has top spot with $619.91bn; Exxon Mobil (XOM) is second with $423.37bn; Microsoft takes third place with $248,65bn; Walmart ranks fourth with $247.91bn; and Google rounds it out at number five with $247,56bn. ®

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