Time Machine: Apple vs. Microsoft vs. IBM over the Last 20 Years
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Time Machine: Apple vs. Microsoft vs. IBM over the Last 20 Years

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A decade ago, if you asked someone how they would get rich off of a time travel machine, a fairly common answer would be to go back in time and buy shares of Microsoft after its 1986 IPO.

While this is still a great answer today, the value of the software giant actually peaked back in 1999 with a market capitalization of $613 billion. Microsoft today is worth far less at only $443 billion – and after adjusting for inflation, that makes it worth around half of its peak value in 1999.

That raises the question – if we were to go back 20 years in time today, which company would be the best buy?

Stockchoker, a website that shows you the hypothetical value of stocks that you could have bought, covers this exact premise in an interactive visualization. Starting with $1,000 on January 1, 1996, the visualization shows the value of this money invested in each of Microsoft, IBM, and Apple.

Let’s start by looking at Jan 1, 2000 on the timeline, near Microsoft’s peak market cap:

IBM vs. Apple vs. Microsoft

Four years after the initial investment, Microsoft has returned an impressive 80% per year. Meanwhile, IBM is also growing fast at a clip of about 48% per annum, and Apple is working to reinvent itself as a company. Keep in mind the release of the iPod has not happened yet – that would occur to much fanfare in 2001.

IBM vs. Apple vs. Microsoft

Close to ten years later, the reinvented Apple is a success story. The iPod is flying off the shelves, and computer sales have increased dramatically. Although Microsoft still has the lead in terms of market valuation, the launch of the iPhone in 2006 would change everything.

IBM vs. Apple vs. Microsoft

Finally, we’ve reached mid-2015. Apple is now primarily in competition with Google (which IPO’d in 2004) for the most valuable company in the world. The $1,000 invested in Apple in 1996 is now worth a hefty $117,413 for a return of over 100x.

Want to travel back in time and watch this for yourself? Visit the interactive visualization by clicking here.

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Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs Since 2020

How bad are the current layoffs in the tech sector? This visual reveals the 20 biggest tech layoffs since the start of the pandemic.

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layoffs in tech

Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs This Decade

The events of the last few years could not have been predicted by anyone. From a global pandemic and remote work as the standard, to a subsequent hiring craze, rising inflation, and now, mass layoffs.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, essentially laid off the equivalent of a small town just weeks ago, letting go of 12,000 people—the biggest layoffs the company has ever seen in its history. Additionally, Amazon and Microsoft have also laid off 10,000 workers each in the last few months, not to mention Meta’s 11,000.

This visual puts the current layoffs in the tech industry in context and ranks the 20 biggest tech layoffs of the 2020s using data from the tracker, Layoffs.fyi.

The Top 20 Layoffs of the 2020s

Since 2020, layoffs in the tech industry have been significant, accelerating in 2022 in particular. Here’s a look at the companies that laid off the most people over the last three years.

RankCompany# Laid Off% of WorkforceAs of
#1Google12,0006%Jan 2023
#2Meta11,00013%Nov 2021
#3Amazon10,0003%Nov 2021
#4Microsoft10,0005%Jan 2023
#5Salesforce8,00010%Jan 2023
#6Amazon8,0002%Jan 2023
#7Uber6,70024%May 2020
#8Cisco4,1005%Nov 2021
#9IBM3,9002%Jan 2023
#10Twitter3,70050%Nov 2022
#11Better.com3,00033%Mar 2022
#12Groupon2,80044%Apr 2020
#13Peloton2,80020%Feb 2022
#14Carvana2,50012%May 2022
#15Katerra2,434100%Jun 2021
#16Zillow2,00025%Nov 2021
#17PayPal2,0007%Jan 2023
#18Airbnb1,90025%May 2020
#19Instacart1,877--Jan 2021
#20Wayfair1,75010%Jan 2023

Layoffs were high in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, halting the global economy and forcing staff reductions worldwide. After that, things were steady until the economic uncertainty of last year, which ultimately led to large-scale layoffs in tech—with many of the biggest cuts happening in the past three months.

The Cause of Layoffs

Most workforce slashings are being blamed on the impending recession. Companies are claiming they are forced to cut down the excess of the hiring boom that followed the pandemic.

Additionally, during this hiring craze competition was fierce, resulting in higher salaries for workers, which is now translating in an increased need to trim the fat thanks to the current economic conditions.

layoffs in the tech sector

Of course, the factors leading up to these recent layoffs are more nuanced than simple over-hiring plus recession narrative. In truth, there appears to be a culture shift occurring at many of America’s tech companies. As Rani Molla and Shirin Ghaffary from Recode have astutely pointed out, tech giants really want you to know they’re behaving like scrappy startups again.

Twitter’s highly publicized headcount reduction in late 2022 occurred for reasons beyond just macroeconomic factors. Elon Musk’s goal of doing more with a smaller team seemed to resonate with other founders and executives in Silicon Valley, providing an opening for others in tech space to cut down on labor costs as well. In just one example, Mark Zuckerberg hailed 2023 as the “year of efficiency” for Meta.

Meanwhile, over at Google, 12,000 jobs were put on the chopping block as the company repositions itself to win the AI race. In the words of Google’s own CEO:

“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today… We have a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products and are prepared to approach it boldly and responsibly.”– Sundar Pichai

The Bigger Picture in the U.S. Job Market

Beyond the tech sector, job openings continue to rise. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed a total of 11 million job openings across the U.S., an increase of almost 7% month-over-month. This means that for every unemployed worker in America right now there are 1.9 job openings available.

Additionally, hiring increased significantly in January, with employers adding 517,000 jobs. While the BLS did report a decrease in openings in information-based industries, openings are increasing rapidly especially in the food services, retail trade, and construction industries.

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