IBM, Apple Top List of 10 Most Innovative IT Companies

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IBM, Apple Top List of 10 Most Innovative IT Companies

IBMIBM has a research division that is 3,000 strong. Thats 3,000 researchers all working on breaking new ground and inventing new technologies that advance not only IBMs products, but also often provide for the greater benefit of all. With a $6 billion annual R&D budget, IBM spends more on research and development than practically anybody else it tech. The company also holds more than 150,000 patents. In 2010, IBM received a record 5,896 patents. IBM also invented Watson, a supercomputer with the question-answering capabilities that allowed it to beat the top Jeopardy winners earlier this year.

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Apple just gets it. Apple is unparalleled when it comes to design. The companys products scream use me to consumers and enterprise users alike. The iPad tablet took the industry by storm. The iPhone continues to be the standard for mobile devices.

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Google is a machine. Company officials created a behemoth around search, with advertising as their primary money-maker. Along the way, Google launched a boatload of cool projects that it has launched as products, including Google Goggles, Google Maps and Google Apps. Granting their employees 20 percent of their time to work on side projects also has led to some nice results, such as Swiffy, a Flash-to-HTML5 tool. Although Google has shelved its Google Labs group, the company maintains that the kind of innovation found in its Labs will continue elsewhere in the company.

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Amazon is a juggernaut. The online retailer continues to outpace all competition. But its the AWS (Amazon Web Services) unit, built out of the success of the retail operation, that has spurred innovation. AWS has become the leader in cloud computing, and the company is relentless at adding new capability to its platform. Most recently, AWS beefed up its Virtual Private Cloud and added new Direct Connect and identification and access management capabilities.

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Microsoft gets knocked for not being innovative. The criticism is that everything Microsoft has done has been a follow of something somebody else did first. Maybe so, but executives have built a big company doing it. Microsoft is a major innovator in the application development space with its Visual Studio tools. In addition, the company created a new human-computer interface that quickly became the fastest selling consumer product of all time in the Kinect. The company has not always been the fastest at turning its research projects into products, but Kinect proved Microsoft can innovate.

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Facebook defines social networking. The company came out of nowhere to become an enormous platform with more than 750 million members. Even folks who have disdain for technology have a presence on Facebook so they can find and keep up with friends. Facebook has provided several innovations in tools and data center technology. For instance, the company developed and open-sourced the Cassandra highly scalable distributed database management system.

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Adobe offers some of the best tools for designers and developers. Its products are de facto standards in many industries and companies. Adobe makes the list not only for its own innovation, but for what its products enable creative people to do with them.

8 of 10 pioneered the cloud computing movement. Its No Software tagline turned heads, but also turned wallets, as many companies jumped onboard. Perhaps even more innovative than Salesforces initial cloud strategy is its move to pioneer the PaaS (platform-as-a-service) phenomenon.

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VMware gets in for several reasons. The first is for being the leader in virtualization—everybodys chasing it. VMware also is noted for rejuvenating Java and the cloud. Buying SpringSource was huge for VMware. SpringSource helped revive an enterprise Java world that was becoming bloated and complex. SpringSource helped alleviate that bloat and quickly became a prominent alternative voice in the Java world, joining Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle). VMware, headed by former Microsoft execs, also recently introduced its Cloud Foundry PaaS offering, which represents some pretty impressive innovation.

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Twitter has become the communications tool for the masses. The microblogging platform has set the tone in social networking and sort of fostered a new journalism. Sure, its a simple notion, and lots of people have considered or even delivered things like it. But what sets Twitter apart is the execution of the idea. The folks behind Twitter executed on their vision and made the thing happen. Tweet, tweet.

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