Buy Apple, Don't Buy Microsoft?

Microsoft and Apple are passing ships, and not in a way that you'd probably expect.

At a time when Apple is shedding investors and Microsoft's hoping to wow the market with the operating system, mobile platform, and tablet it introduced late last year, sentiment may be shifting back in Apple's favor.

Lazard Capital Markets is initiating coverage of Apple with a "buy" rating this morning, establishing a price target of $540.

Lazard analysts believe that the worst is behind the consumer tech giant. Sure, Android is eating its lunch and margins will continue to get squeezed, but have investors been approaching Apple the wrong way? Lazard offers up Apple as a data storage play since it's "instrumental in driving data creation in ways its competitors are not."

Fresh bullish perspectives are always welcome, especially with Apple trading less than 3% away from its 52-week low.

On the other end of the opinion-o-meter, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is talking down Microsoft. After gluing itself to a "buy" rating on the stock for more than four years, Merrill Lynch lowering its rating to neutral. The original bullishness surrounded a massive stock buyback and the Windows 7 product cycle that didn't pan out as planned. Things aren't getting any better now that we're several months into Windows 8.

Microsoft isn't necessarily riding high with investors these days. Mr. Softy is trading closer to its 52-week low than its 52-week high at a time when some of the market gauges are hitting new highs. However, Microsoft's stock hasn't fallen as hard as Apple has since peaking last year, even though Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Surface rollouts have fizzled out as catalysts.

Apple at least has one notable analyst backing it now. If only it could get jaded analysts and even more skeptical investors to follow along.

Got Apple? Get smart.
There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Bank of America, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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