You've heard all about how Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is closing in on ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) to perhaps become America's largest business.

But that's only if you count by market cap. You should know that plenty of companies are still much bigger than Apple if you look at pretty much any other metric. Consider:


Market Cap (billions)

LTM Revenue (billions)

LTM Net Income (billions)

Full-Time Employees
(bill ... uh, wait, no)






Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT)















Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B)





Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)





JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM)





Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. LTM = last twelve months.

As you can see, Apple is merely large on more fundamental measures, not the lumbering giant that its market cap would indicate. I'm not judging anyone here; I'm simply measuring "largeness" from various angles.

All of the companies above and more (14 American businesses in total) outrank Apple in terms of trailing revenue and number of employees. You could argue that making this much money with so few workers is a good thing, because high income per employee is a measure of efficient operations. On the flipside, enormous employers such as Wal-Mart, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway's sprawling conglomerate clearly make a larger impact on the economy as they provide jobs by the bushel.

Does it shock you to see archrival Microsoft generating 54% more income than Apple on merely 9.5% higher sales? It shouldn't, since Mr. Softy is in the high-margin software business while Apple deals with messy and expensive hardware.

Overall, what might be the most impressive part of the Apple story is the shoestring resources it's used to accomplish its success. Apple's R&D budget is about one-fifth that of Microsoft, yet Apple has created a mobile operating system that was years ahead of the competition. The company has succeeded thanks to a laser-like focus and a vision that has resonated with consumers. Going forward, don't be surprised if you see other companies copying the vertical integration Apple is moving toward by designing its own processors.

Does Apple really deserve the second-largest market cap on this list despite lagging in other columns? Discuss in the comments box below.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. At 6'5", he is taller than Steve Jobs but shorter than Bill Gates Sr. Berkshire Hathaway, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Apple and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Exxon Mobil, IBM, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.