Apple breaks into Fortune 500's top 10

Climbs 11 spots to No. 6 overall on revenue of $156 billion, leads all tech firms

Apple climbed the Fortune 500 this year to the No. 6 spot, its highest-ever ranking, its first time in the top 10, and the top technology company on the influential list, replacing sagging HP.

Fortune, which ranks firms by annual revenue, released its updated Fortune 500 list today. The revenue cutoff this year was approximately $4.8 billion.

Apple easily beat that, with revenue of $156.5 billion for its fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, behind Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Phillips 66 and Berkshire Hathaway, the Nebraska holding company owned by billionaire CEO Warren Buffett.

The Cupertino, Calif., company, whose stock has been hammered since last September, climbed 11 spots from 2012's No. 17 with a revenue gain of 47%, blowing by former technology lead Hewlett-Packard, which fell from No. 10 to No. 15 in the newest list as revenue there dropped 5%.

Other technology firms near the top of the Fortune 500 were IBM at No. 20, Microsoft at No. 35, Amazon at No. 49, Dell at No. 51, Intel and Google at No. 54 and 55, respectively, Cisco at No. 60 and Oracle at No. 80.

Microsoft rose two spots on the list, IBM fell one position, Amazon climbed seven places and Dell, like HP a victim of slumping PC sales, fell seven.

When ranked on profit, Apple was the list's No. 2 company, reaping $41.7 billion, behind only Exxon Mobil, which posted profit of $44.8 billion. The latter was the second-highest in U.S. history, surpassed only by Exxon's own 2008 record.

HP had the dubious distinction of taking home the profit booby prize, as it ranked dead last among the 500 firms with a loss of $12.6 billion, largely on the back of a pair of write-downs last year, including one of $8.8 billion for what it called "serious accounting irregularities" at U.K. software company Autonomy before HP acquired the firm in 2011.

Microsoft placed No. 8 when ranked by profit, even though its $17 billion was down 27% from the year before, hit by falling PC sales -- and ensuing declines in sales of its flagship, Windows -- and a booming tablet market, where the Redmond, Wash., company didn't have a significant play during 2012.

Not all was roses for Apple in 2012, Fortune said, noting the two apologies issued by CEO Tim Cook -- one for the mid-year Maps debacle, another a month ago to Chinese consumers over warranty repair policies -- and the less-than-dramatic introductions of the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini last fall.

"Still, when every executive wants to invent the iPod of ___, Apple remains an innovation icon," the magazine wrote.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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