By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 6, 2011

Up 21 slots from 2009. If ranked by profits, rather than revenues, it would be No. 8

Apple AAPL catapulted into the top 50 U.S. companies in the 2011 edition of the Fortune 500 released Friday. The rankings are based on revenues from the most recent fiscal year — in Apple’s case, the one that ended Sept. 2010. If profits had been the criterion, Apple would have come in eighth, right after Wal-Mart WMT and IBM IBM .

The Fortune 500 issue — with an “Inside Apple” feature story by Adam Lashinsky —  is available on the iPad, now free for print subscribers (Fortune, that is, not the iPad). Meanwhile, the full 500 list has been posted online here.

Here’s what it says about Apple:

Apple climbed 21 slots into the top 50 of the Fortune 500 this year. How’d it get there? The company not only continues to expand its reach in existing markets, it also keeps creating new ones.

Take the iPad, which showed the world the power of tablet computing when it was introduced last year. iPad 2 followed, and was one of the most highly anticipated electronic products this year. CEO Steve Jobs’ appearance at its debut in March reassured shareholders worried about his most recent medical leave. Regardless of who’s in charge, though, investors have plenty of reason to believe Apple’s magic spell on consumers can continue. —S.D.

Also on Fortune.com:

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]


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