Apple’s market capitalization pushed past the $500 Billion mark for the first time in after-hours trading this afternoon on the heels of the company announcing a media event where it will likely introduce the iPad 3. Apple shares (AAPL) closed at a record high $535.41 during regular trading hours, valuing the company at $499.2 billion, more than any other public company in the world. Investors are clearly excited by the prospects of another blockbuster year for the iPad.
Apple shares ended the after-hours trading session at $537.10, valuing the company at just under $501 billion dollars. That’s almost exactly the value of Dell ($31.58 billion), Microsoft ($267.41 billion) and Google ($201.06 billion) combined. The next largest publicly traded company is Exxon Mobil ($412 billion).
Industry watchers expect Apple to introduce a new version of the iPad 3 next week. The device will follow in the footsteps of the iPad 2, which has defined the consumer tablet market for the past year. While other companies have tried in earnest to sell competitive tablets, none have taken significant marketshare away from the iPad. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is the best selling Android tablet, with many pointing to its $199 price as its primary selling point. Devices from companies such as Samsung and Motorola have entered the market at and above the iPad’s $499 starting price.
According to Apple’s own numbers, it sells more than 157,000 iPads per day, which is almost two iPads per second.
The iPad 3 event is slated for March 7 in San Francisco, which means there’s more than a week to go before details are officially released. Apple watchers are expecting to see a new iPad with a higher resolution display, 4G LTE connectivity, a more powerful processor and Siri, a feature that’s currently only found on the iPhone 4S. Apple will likely introduce an updated version of iOS, its mobile operating system, to power the new device.
The iPad is unique in that buyers can purchase AT&T and Verizon compatible models without signing a lengthy wireless contract. They are free to activate and deactivate 3G service as needed. Should Apple and its wireless partners offer the same flexibility with 4G service, the iPad 3 will have yet another key advantage over the competition.
The record Apple stock price and iPad 3 event announcement comes amidst the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, where seemingly every other mobile device and platform company is vying for attention.
While some analysts expect a sharp sell off of Apple shares after the iPad 3 announcement, others are looking past the $500 billion mark and expect the company to reach a $600 billion market capitalization.