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In one chart: How Microsoft has trumped Apple since Steve Jobs’s death

Microsoft’s taken a bite out of Apple since 2011

Icnoic Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs died of cancer four years ago. The tech titan has left an indelible mark on Silicon Valley and on personal tech gadgets like the iPhone and MacBook.

In other words, he’s cast a long shadow over his successor, Chief Executive Tim Cook. Although Cook has stepped up to the challenge, one chart that has made the rounds in Twitter TWTR, -1.50% suggests that one of Apple’s fiercest early rivals, Microsoft Corp., has outshone Apple over since Jobs’s death — at least in terms of stocks returns.

Microsoft enjoyed one of its best stock performances last week, hitting its highest share price in more than 15 years after its quarterly results beat Wall Street’s expectations

Ahead of Apple’s AAPL, +4.12% earnings Tuesday, which come after the close of trading in New York, here’s the chart comparing returns of MicrosoftMSFT, +0.54% with Apple over the past four years:

Based on this chart, Microsoft has outperformed Apple since Jobs’s death in 2011.

The chart is derived from an

, which appears inMarketWatch’s Need to Know column.

However, looking at a longer-term horizon — since 1986 — you can see that although Microsoft has bested Apple (in green in the chart below) for much of the past 30 years, by one measure of profitability, known as return on equity, Apple has outperformed Microsoft over the past two years:

Microsoft threw down the gauntlet on Friday, drawing plaudits for its CEO Satya Nadella, after the technology giant posted one of its best stock performances in more than decade, driven by quarterly results that beat Wall Street expectations.

Now it is Apple’s turn to deliver.

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