When Microsoft overtook Apple as the world’s most valuable company in late 2018, it was crowning a stunning turnaround by a company most people probably didn’t realise needed one. Back in 2010, Apple had overtaken Microsoft, as Steve Jobs’s company hit on a blistering streak that would propel the iPhone maker to being the first $1-trillion company last year. But in the last week of November, having been the largest listed company since 2011, Apple’s share price fell as Microsoft’s rose to $828bn, and it ended the month at $851bn. In May, Microsoft overtook another arch-rival, Google, reaching $753bn to the $739bn of Google’s holding company, Alphabet. But how did Microsoft — the world’s largest software manufacturer and an integral part of most people’s technology and internet universe — fall so far behind in the first place? The truth is that since the turn of the millennium, Microsoft has faced a number of existential threats to its business model. The most significant danger was ...

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