JP Morgan's hardware analyst Mark Moskowitz has laid bare exactly how huge Apple has become lately, calling the company an actual "sector," not just a company any more. Of course, on paper, Apple is competing with other computer and device manufacturers like Dell and Samsung, but the numbers just don't make that comparison meaningful any more, says Moskowitz. Apple's stock is by far the largest single stock in the S&P 500 index, and when you compare the company's income to other tech sectors like Pharmaceuticals and Software as a whole, Apple's take actually lines up within the top 10.
I'll say that again, because it's important: Apple's income and operations actually compete with whole industries, not just the rest of the PC market. This isn't just the iPhone or the iPad being a new class of device, it's Apple as a whole company creating a tech sector of its own. That's pretty incredible, and if you haven't yet realized how big Apple has gotten in the past few years (as if the $98 billion in cash wasn't clear enough), maybe that's your wakeup call.
Now, this may all seem like financial types just making much ado about numbers, but it actually holds quite a bit of meaning, both for Apple and its competitors going forward. Apple's huge growth in the past few years will have lots of consequences, both for the company and the technology industry at large, and we still haven't figured out just what a lot of those consequences will be.