The Wired 40
30-06-06 Suggested by: Jack of all Trades
By Spencer Reiss
The Wired 40 most innovatives companies on earth
What makes a company wired? We start by looking for the basics: strategic vision, global reach, killer technology. But that’s not enough. To land a spot on our annual Wired 40 list, a business also needs the X-factor – a hunger for new ideas and an impatience to put them into practice. Such companies inevitably become trendsetters, literally: As we debated and redebated the list this year, six major themes flickered into view. From the rise of peer production to the end of carbon pollution, they tell us where the world is heading. These are the companies leading the way.
2005 Rank: 02
Less cuddly but more profitable than ever, the monster from Mountain View has rivals but no peers. Is it a search engine? A media company? A software provider? Who cares? Microsoft, for one. Get ready for the grudge match of the decade.
2005 Rank: 01
In the drama of Apple’s resurgence, act one was forging the iTunes/iPod axis. Act two was bundling the iLife suite of creative tools with new computers. Adapting the Mac OS to run Windows apps natively would make a triumphant conclusion.
2005 Rank: 03
Smart design and rapid product development made Samsung tops in consumer electronics. What will the company do with its newly doubled research staff of 32,000 and a $40 billion budget? Next iPod, please!
2005 Rank: 07
Will biotech kill the blockbuster? Rather than aiming drugs at broad populations with scattershot results, Genentech is developing treatments for specific patient groups. Its success has Big Pharma reaching for the smelling salts.
2005 Rank: 05
Who says portal is a dirty word? The McDonald’s of cyberspace serves up a staggering 3.5 billion Web pages a day. Its relentlessly expanding feature stack gives even Google a touch of envy. So how about some respect?
2005 Rank: 04
Jeff Bezos has been pumping R&D money into projects like the A9 search engine and the Amazon Fishbowl webcast. But he’ll need a home run to offset shrinking margins. Music and video downloads may do the trick.
2005 Rank: 08
Ford and Nissan are licensing Toyota’s hybrid technology – it doesn’t get any better than that. And if the green road becomes clogged with competition from nonlicensees like GM and its GMC Sierra Hybrid pickup, the Japanese innovator can fall back on being the best carmaker in the world.
08. GENERAL ELECTRIC
2005 Rank: 17
Is there a big clean business GE hasn’t jumped on? Windmills, hybrid railroad engines, water systems, coal gasification – with six divisions, from GE Healthcare to NBC Universal, the megaconglomerate could start a new green revolution.
09. NEWS CORP.
Rupert Murdoch’s legendary opportunism was made for the mayhem of today’s media landscape. He built the only truly global constellation of news, sports, and entertainment properties. Newly acquired MySpace gives it a digital heart.
2005 Rank: 11
CEOs like their business apps to be just like their cars: big, fast, and German. While archrival Oracle expands its product line at M&A sword point, SAP rolls its own code, crafting slick modules for everything from analytics to HR. Can it meet the audacious goal of doubling its market cap by 2011? Innovation, ho!
11. INFOSYS TECH
2005 Rank: 09
Infosys made Bangalore the software outsourcing capital of the world. But globalization is a two-way street, and now companies like IBM are descending on India, scooping up talent and cutting margins. CEO Nandan Nilekani’s response: Upgrade to full-service IT consulting.
2005 Rank: 13
Cisco’s challenge is to keep dreaming up new uses for a commodity product: the IP router. CEO John Chambers’ latest focus is collaboration – knitting business apps together with megabandwidth audio and videoconferencing. Guess who sells the yarn.
13. ELECTRONIC ARTS
2005 Rank: 06
The game publisher has the muscle to survive while Sony and Nintendo delay their next-gen consoles. But the big money is in cyberspace. EA needs an online stronghold to avoid being caught in the platform crossfire.
2005 Rank: 15
The top online DVD rental house got that way using the US Postal Service, not a bandwidth-challenged Net. But thanks to BitTorrent, iTunes, and Hollywood’s growing cooperation, movie downloads are finally becoming viable. CEO Reed Hastings promises a digital strategy by year-end.
2005 Rankr: 20
CEO Marc Benioff is the high priest of software-as-service. Salesforce.com lets small businesses manage customers online, starting at $65 a month. Next: a Web-based business platform that offers 2,000 on-demand apps, from purchasing to recruiting.
2005 Rank: 18
Wild-eyed extropians heralding the posthuman future have nothing on Medtronic. The company’s newest implantable defibrillator will track your heart’s rate, internal pressure, and temperature – and posts the stats on the Net for your doctor to see.
17. SUNPOWER CORP.
If solar energy’s first problem is price, its second is the number of panels it takes to chill a six-pack. That’s where SunPower shines: Its photovoltaic silicon puts out 50 percent more juice per square inch.
2005 Rank: 14
Why peddle technology when you can sell business transformation? Big Blue still designs white-hot chips and spearheads Linux development. But CEO Sam Palmisano is betting that IBM’s future lies in high-end IT consulting and outsourcing services.
2005 Rank: 10
With $1.2 billion in profits last year, CEO Meg Whitman can afford costly fliers like buying Skype’s global phone system. But the challenge is closer to home: Social networks like MySpace could add buy/sell as just another feature.
Legal and technical complexities discourage wireless carriers from offering mobile games, news, sports, maps, etc. Enter InfoSpace, a dot-bust survivor that packages content for cell phones. Traffic is going one way: up.
2005 Rank: 24
Few companies can say they build a reality synthesizer. Nvidia’s GeForce graphics processor paints photorealistic environments for Sony’s PlayStation 3. Open sourcers rage against the proprietary drivers, but Nvidia’s chipsets remain gaming’s gold standard.
What Americans call broadband would barely pass for dialup in South Korea. Delivering as much as 30 Mbps, Verizon’s pioneering fiber-to-the-curb service has the cable guys panicked. Bandwidth showdown! Everyone wins.
2005 Rank: 22
Singapore-based Flex-tronics pioneered outsourced electronics manufacturing for blue-chip customers like Motorola and Nortel. Now the sprawling company wants to own another link in the value chain: product design.
2005 Rank: 19
Four out of five PCs ship with Intel inside, and now the company’s CPUs are even in Macs. But cheaper, cooler chips from AMD have the mothership of hardware spooked. CEO Paul Otellini’s damage control: overclock R&D and leapfrog a generation of processors.
2005 Rank: 27
Frankenfood lives. Thanks mainly to Monsanto’s perseverance, the world’s farmers now plant more than a billion acres a year of genetically modified crops. Next up: drought-resistant corn, vitamin-supercharged nutraceuticals, and the no-mow lawn.
2005 Rank: 23
Hefty data storage rigs are a dime a dozen these days. EMC is preserving its lead by migrating from hardware to software that manages infor-mation “from creation to disposal.” Of course, the company still sells a $4 million disk array that holds 1 petabyte – a million gigs.
Never mind Kevlar and Tyvek. DuPont is blazing the trail for industrial biotech, replacing petroleum with plant extracts. Manufacturers get ecofriendly plastics and chemicals, and the 200-year-old company unhitches itself from the price-per-barrel roller coaster.
2005 Rank: 25
Low cost and high service are still the game to beat at 36,000 feet. Unfortunately, other carriers are finally figuring that out. With fuel prices headed for the stratosphere, there’s turbulence ahead for JetBlue.
The Chinese PC giant’s acquisition of IBM’s ThinkPad division opens a new chapter in globalization: a Chinese company headquartered in North Carolina! But can it compete in a market where price isn’t the last word?
2005 Rank: 34
In semiconductors, smaller is better – or more precisely, faster. Contract chip foundry TSMC has busted the 65-nanometer barrier, formerly the province of heavyweights like Intel. That lets customers like Qualcomm push the digital frontier.
2005 Rank: 40
Squaring off against environmentalists to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in New Jersey is one way to move “beyond petroleum,” but BP is also getting serious about hydrogen, solar, and wind. The company’s alt-energy goal – $6 billion annually by 2015 – is just 2 percent of this year’s revenue, but it’s a start.
32. LI & FUNG
2005 Rank: 33
The Hong Kong-based clothing firm owns no factories, stores, or brands, yet it has nearly $7 billion in annual revenue. How? By managing the entire industrial process, from design to distribution, for names like Levi’s. Its real product is global supply chains, made to order.
2005 Rank: 39
Nukes may be the best hope for a warming planet. Exelon buys reactors from sleepy utility companies and turbocharges productivity. If the political stars align, the company might also build the first new US nuclear plant since the Carter administration.
2005 Rank: 30
So the Picassos were fakes – maybe a discount store isn’t the best place to buy art masterpieces. But Costco’s advantage is very real: Its marriage of eclectic merchandise and big-box economy produces industry-leading, double-digit sales growth.
2005 Rank: 35
Infectious diseases would be even scarier without Gen-Probe’s DNA-based tests. They keep the inter-national blood supply clear of HIV and diagnose maladies like tuberculosis and West Nile virus. The next target is prostate cancer.
2005 Rank: 28
The desktop OS gold mine won’t last forever. What’s next? Redmond’s latest to-do list includes software-as-service, security, even VoIP. Or it could simply buy a piece of Yahoo. (Take that, Google!)
37. L-3 COMMUNICATIONS
2005 Rank: 37
War toys have lost some of their post-9/11 luster, but L-3’s ultrasecure communications gear, aerial drones, and spook tools retain an unfortunately bright future. Should peace break out, there’s always disaster recovery.
2005 Rank: 36
With $1.5 trillion in assets, Citigroup is practically a proxy for the global economy: unbelievably large, staggeringly efficient, and somewhat corrupt. No reason to mess with the first two, but the last could use a little work.
2005 Rank: 31
Hundreds of TV channels plus broadband plus VoIP are turning the tide in the cable monster’s war against satellite insurgents. Next battle: trench warfare with fiber-wielding telcos like Verizon.
2005 Rank: 32
Big Pharma may be looking wan on Wall Street, but it still has the clout to steer drugs past the FDA and into medicine cabinets. Pfizer does it best – the ideal partner for biotech boutiques out to reach the mass market.
Six companies that slid off the Wired 40.
An ongoing slump in PC sales and consequent cost reductions have left this retailer with nothing left to cut.
In less than a decade, overnight delivery has gone from specialty service to standard offering.
What’s an innovator to do? Carriers, not handset makers, now dictate the cell phone feature set.
Digital animation’s guiding light is now a division of Disney. Here’s hoping CEO Bob Iger doesn’t wreck it.
The online broker still rules etrading, but what once was a disruptive technology is now a commodity service.
So much for 3G. The wireless champ fumbled next-gen services. Now it’s selling assets just to stay afloat.
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