Apple: Products Vs. Stock On Wednesday, Apple overtook Microsoft as the world's most valuable technology company, at least by one Wall Street measure -- market capitalization. Michele Norris talks with Kyle Conroy, a student at the University of California, Berkeley about a table he's compiled that looks at how much money you might have today had you invested in Apple stock instead of buying Apple products, such as iMacs and iPods. We also hear from NPR's Robert Benincasa, who makes the same comparison for a number of other products.
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Apple: Products Vs. Stock

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Apple: Products Vs. Stock

Apple: Products Vs. Stock

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's no secret that Apple's stock has skyrocketed. Yesterday, for the first time, all of Apple's shares were worth more than all of Microsoft's. That got us thinking about Apple investments, something that Kyle Conroy has also been thinking about. He's a computer science major at UC Berkeley, and he has compiled a table that answers this question.

How much money would you have today if you'd purchased Apple stock instead of an Apple product? And Kyle Conroy joins us now by Skype. Welcome to the program.

Mr. KYLE CONROY: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: So, let's just tick through some of these. Let's take a Powerbook G4 with a 17-inch screen. That's a pretty coveted item when it came out back in January of 2003. And the price then was $3,299. And if you had instead invested that in Apple stock, how much would it be worth right now?

Mr. CONROY: You would have $120,000. Pretty impressive.

NORRIS: And let's take, let's say another product, something perhaps a little bit smaller in value, the iPod Mini. The asking price back in February of 2004 was $249. And if you hadn't purchased that iPod Mini, if you had instead purchased Apple stock, how much would you have in the bank right now?

Mr. CONROY: You would have $6,103.

NORRIS: Again, another fine return on that investment. Now, do you have any of these products?

Mr. CONROY: I bought both the original iPod and I currently own a 15-inch MacBook Pro from about four years ago.

NORRIS: So if you were smart and you had purchased Apple stock, you'd have a lot of money, but what about the opportunity cost?

Mr. CONROY: Definitely. I'm a computer science major and my laptop is very, very important to me, so this computer has gotten through me a lot of stuff.

NORRIS: Kyle Conroy is a junior at U.C. Berkeley and you can find a link to his blog post: Should I Have Bought that Apple Product? at our Web site, Kyle, thanks so much.

Mr. CONROY: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: If you're kicking yourself right now over not having bought that Apple stock back in 2003, well, you're not alone. To try to sort some things out, we've asked Robert Benincasa of NPR's investigative unit to look at a few other products. And Robert's here in the studio. Hello.


NORRIS: Now, you specialize in digging through all kinds of data and you pulled together some numbers for us. Can we start with Apple's rival, Microsoft?

BENINCASA: Sure. Let's go back to Windows 98. When it came out it was about $89 and if you had taken that $89 and instead bought Microsoft stock, you would have today about $85.

NORRIS: You would've lost money.

BENINCASA: Lost about $4, not counting all of the other losses from inflation and such like that. And, Michele, these are back of the envelope kinds of calculations. They don't take into consideration commissions to buy and sell stock, the taxes that you pay, dividends and things like that. We're just kind of looking at the value of the stock.

NORRIS: Let's look at a John Deere lawnmower, big ticket item, a lot of money there. What did you find?

BENINCASA: Right. Well, let's go back a decade. In 2000, if I had spent $500 on a John Deere lawnmower - and I like this example because I don't like mowing the lawn - and instead I took that money and I bought John Deere stock, I'd have about $1,400 in stock right now, 10 years later.

NORRIS: And you'd probably have to use some of that money to pay somebody else to mow your lawn because your grass wouldn't be looking really good. How about cars? Let's say you bought a Ford Taurus.

BENINCASA: Well, you know, cars depreciate over time, but we put up with that because we enjoy them. So, if you bought a Ford Taurus in 2000 for $18,000, right now the car would be worth about $2,000. The stock, $18,000 back then, right now would be worth about $7,000.

NORRIS: Okay, so that's one example. What if you purchased a Buick?

BENINCASA: Well, as you know, GM was delisted from the stock exchange and the news there is kind of grim. The stock for General Motors is worth almost nothing right now. So you'd be better off with the car.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Okay, so if you're driving a Buick right now, you have a smile on your face as you're listening to this conversation.

BENINCASA: Exactly. Enjoy the car.

NORRIS: Robert Benincasa, always good to talk to you.

BENINCASA: My pleasure.

NORRIS: Robert Benincasa is with NPR's investigative unit.

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