“Whether you’re holding an old-school 4, a tooty-fruity 5c, a Shanghai-edition gold 5s, or a Calle Ocho-jailbreak especial, it’s easy to forget how many stars had to align for any iPhone to happen at all,” Roben Farzad reports for Businessweek.

“The particular butterfly flappings that combined to create Steve Jobs’s extraordinary life and career are well-known and oft-recalled; less remembered is the $150 million lifeline Microsoft threw Apple in August 1997, when Apple was within weeks of bankruptcy,” Farzad reports. “That now-infamous investment gave Apple enough money and breathing room to consolidate control of its Mac business and parlay that momentum and cash flow into the iPod and iTunes. Then the iPhone and iPad that would go on to mortally wound the entire personal computer industry, effectively zero-sum annexing continents’ worth of market capitalization from Microsoft’s waning empire. Microsoft was worth $556 billion at its Y2K peak. It’s now worth $320 billion. Apple was worth less than $3 billion when it took Bill Gates’s money; today it commands a planet-leading $505 billion valuation.”

Farzad reports, “That — and not AOL-Time Warner ($286 billion in combined market cap loss), Bank of America-Countrywide (more than $40 billion in directly related penalties, settlements, and losses) — might qualify as the most costly investment in modern history. True, Microsoft sold its stake a few years after that bailout for a tidy profit. And as Barry Ritholtz told me: ‘The goal was not a return on invested capital, but rather, to keep Apple’s competitive operating system viable so the antitrust folks would have a harder time proving Microsoft’s monopoly.’”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we explained on January 23, 2012:

Microsoft’s $150 million investment in non-voting shares did not “rescue” Apple Computer, Inc. per se.

The value was in the settlement of patent disputes for an undisclosed figure, a patent cross-licensing agreement, the promise of continued Office and other software for Mac development for a five-year period, and, most of all, the P.R. the deal generated.

As was usually the case, Jobs got the bang for the buck, and then some, for which he was looking.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader "Winston" for the heads up.]