Microsoft CEO downplays Apple's lead in market value

At a press conference in India, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer dismissed questions about Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) surpassing Microsoft in market value. Analysts attribute the decline to Microsoft's inability to capitalize on new products--particularly those in the wireless space. Nevertheless, Ballmer said Microsoft is focused on launching new products and increasing profitability. 

The debate comes after Microsoft's market value declined to $219 billion at the close of Wall Street trading yesterday, down from $556 billion in January 2000 when Ballmer took over the helm from Bill Gates. Meanwhile, Apple's market value was $221 billion at the close of trading Wednesday, up from $15.6 billion in the same time frame--making Apple the most valuable technology company in the world and the nation's second most-valuable company, behind oil company Exxon Mobil.

Apple's surpassing of Microsoft in market value comes just days after Microsoft announced that Entertainment and Devices division President Robbie Bach will retire in the fall, and that Senior Vice President Andrew Lees will continue to oversee the software giant's Mobile Communications Business. However, Lees will report to Ballmer, who will assume command of the E&D unit effective July 1.

Interestingly, at the press event, Ballmer said he isn't planning to make any drastic changes to the Entertainment and Devices division, but that he will accelerate plans. Ballmer added that he is optimistic about the launch of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform by year-end.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article

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