Apple does not pay a dividend, so an increase in their stock price and related market cap is the only value that investors can benefit from. Microsoft does pay a dividend, and is willing to give a percentage of their profits back to shareholders (sometimes in large chunks
). While Apple has done well as a growth stock over the last 5 years they may eventually need to pay a dividend if they want to keep investors happy.
Apple's big run started with the iPod on October 23, 2001, about the same time that Microsoft released Windows XP. Since then Apple has release a bunch of iDevices, upgrades to their core line of computers, and a handful of other products many of which have been very successful in the consumer market. Microsoft however operates in both the business and consumer market, and saying that they have been sitting and twiddling their thumbs on their Windows and Office empire for the last 10 years would be incorrect. In the same amount of time Microsoft has released:
Not to mention large investments in online search, software as a service, and cloud computing. With the exception of their Online Services Division (MSN, Bing, Hotmail, advertising) Microsoft makes significant income from each of their product divisions and has more than twice the income that Apple does. Many of their business products are doing very well, and Sharepoint recently became their latest billion dollar sales product.
I will admit that Apple's products are more popular than Microsofts, but that is because they are tailored to the consumer market. Most business uses Microsoft because it costs less and makes users more productive. I personally think that the Zune HD and Windows 7 are great consumer products, and the Windows Phone 7 is designed to compete with the iPhone as opposed to the Palm OS for Windows Mobile, so it will be interesting to see how the next 10 years progresses.