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Poll: Which company made the biggest contribution to tech in 2010?

The technology industry bounced back in 2010 with a slew of new products and innovations. Vote on which company deserves the crown as the top tech innovator of the year.

The technology industry bounced back from a recession year in 2009 with a slew of new products and innovations in 2010. Much of the attention was focused on mobile devices and cloud computing, and the technology world's largest players were driving many of its biggest innovations.

I've put together a list of five companies that I think have been most important innovators this year. Three of them are among the largest publicly-traded technology companies on the planet - Microsoft, Apple, and Cisco - and the other two are titans of the Internet - Google and Amazon.

Some may ask why Amazon is on this list since the company is best known as an Internet retailer, but I'd list them as a tech company because their real business is e-commerce technology and the company is also rapidly becoming a cloud computing juggernaut with Amazon Web Services and a device and software maker with the rise of the Kindle.

Here's how I would rate the most important tech innovators of the year. Apple gets the top spot mostly on the power of the iPad, which despite being overhyped, still pushed the tech world forward with a new take on the tablet computer that has attracted the masses. Cisco gets number two because it continues to effectively transform itself from an Internet pipe plumber into a powerhouse of modern communications that consistently pushes digital collaboration forward.

  1. Apple
  2. Cisco
  3. Microsoft
  4. Amazon
  5. Google

Which of these five do think did the most to push the tech world forward in 2010? Vote in the poll and then jump into the discussion to explain your reasoning, or to tell why you would nominate a different candidate instead.

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

44 comments
p4nto
p4nto

I'm not an Apple fan but I have to admit, they've really shaken up the industry in the last few years. They've probably sped up the uptake of touchscreen smartphones by years, they've defined the importance of simplistic design, they've created a market for tablets where others failed and they've created an innovation eco system for developers. Not that they accomplished all this in 2010, but their reputation and products in 2010 (including their influence on the competition) overshadow the other names in this list.

NexS
NexS

Because the question is too vague for me. Either that, or I refuse to vote 'Apple'! Really, though, Apple did make a great number of technology based products that went out to the world this year, but they are not on the same level as other names. Edited: Also, Apple make toys. I don't consider the iPhone anything more than a glorified toy. :^0 Cisco aren't in the consumer-user's face with their products, but surely they have made substantial headway in network security. So asking "Who made the biggest contribution to tech?" is an unfair question. Humbug.

dogknees
dogknees

J. Craig Venter's company has created the first entirely artificial cell. No, not a cell-phone! I think this is likely to have a greater impact on us than any of the products or manufacturers mentioned.

neldeeb
neldeeb

I actually do agree the Android operating system provides more tech features than Apple's iPhone's, or even iPad's, however, after all, it is only an immitation of Apple's innovation. This is why I still vote for Apple :)

ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898
ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898

I think Google should have been at #2 and Cisco at the bottom. From a consumer point of view here is where I'd have ranked them: 1. Apple 2. Google 3. Amazon 4. Microsoft 5. Cisco I think Google has made quite a few innovations though 2010. And let's also not forget Twitter and Facebook - which kept growing and growing. But I do agree that Apple tops it after the release of the iPad. Though I would not get one as I don't feel I need one, I do like the whole idea. I think if they want to stay on top, they should allow Flash to run on it. Otherwise, how are you going to view YouTube and other popular flash sites?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Pound for pound, they have made more money and more products than the mentioned companies combined. Not that I am advocating EA Games, they are a lousy producer and prefer to make many shitty games instead of fewer quality games.

SMTechGuy
SMTechGuy

I think you completely missed the ball by not mentioning VMware. You have to think higher, in regards to ground breaking tech, than just consumer products. VMware is leading the industry in cloud computing and virtualization technology. Microsoft and Cisco are A LEAST 5 years behind them technology wise.

coolmark82
coolmark82

I have known Apple since I got into that stuff around 1995, and especially since Steve Jobs came back in 1997, the company has been more innovative than the previous year. The first iPad was great and was a high quality product, but in my opinion, here is what I wanted in the iPad: -Facetime Camera front and back -Retina Display -Mac OS X Snow Leopard -USB ports -A firewire port -Magsafe adapter rather than a charger that syncs to a computer. Really, a device of that size should not have to sync with a computer! Well, Apple did a great job anyways. Before we Succeed, we fail. And Apple is getting better at succeeding without failing.

tmcclure
tmcclure

Microsoft is at 9%? What did they do to even get on the list?

blcslv
blcslv

Google for Droid and Chrome.

jerang@
jerang@ Staff

Voted! Shouldn't Twitter make this list too?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I know the lines are blurring. I agree this is 'likely to have a greater impact', but it hasn't had one yet. We're talking about what was done this year, not what might be done next.

kashyap.bikram
kashyap.bikram

It came to my mind, but the security issues cropping up made me think they were not thorough with their work. Just get the functionality and release it. Edit: Twitter did not seem to be innovating

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Does that make McDonald's a leading contributor to the culinary arts? If EA is a lousy producer and much of their product line is junk, why did you bother? Making money contributes to the shareholders, not an industry.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... not 'sold the most product.' EA really hasn't contributed anything to tech for a long time; as you say, they're more interested in quantity over quality.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...and I'm not even really a computer guy.

Brenton Keegan
Brenton Keegan

I saw the list and I was surprised that VMWare wasn't mentioned. I was going through the posts thinking that someone had to be thinking the same thing and I was right. My unofficial vote is for VMWare. People talk about Microsoft's contribution to 'cloud computing' but VMware is way ahead of them.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...might spur faster / further development by competitors, this could be good.

kashyap.bikram
kashyap.bikram

It seems Steve Jobs concentrates on looks more than anything else.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Which apparently is not a real Retina display anyways.

napkatz
napkatz

If I had to guess I'd say: 1) Visual Studio 2010 / .NET 4.0 were major updates that have greatly benefit corporate app development. 2) Windows Azure - Again, probably more popular with businesses than consumers. This gives developers a comprehensive cloud development platform. 3) SQL Server 2008 R2 - A pretty decent mid-term release, especially in the Express builds. 4) Microsoft's campus initiatives - They have been winning contracts for their educational IT services. Admittedly, they've largely struck out when it comes to tablets, phones, and most things mobile.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Chrome: Until now essentially vaporware as an OS, though just another web browser using Apple's SDK. Android: while big and growing rapidly, is not original, using a version of Linux but probably wouldn't even exist were it not for the iPhone's release three years ago. So how, really, did Chrome and Android contribute to tech this year?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Besides a new level of obsession with 'followers'.

stephen.johansen
stephen.johansen

Apple for Hardware. Google for Internet expansion being the first fully online business to have its own satellite. Cisco is and always will reign supreme in all Communications. Microsoft has just done exactly what it has done every other year. Release new versions of old software. I do think that Nintendo deserves a mention with the Wii. This released technology that has advanced computing to a new level even though its only being used in consoles at the moment.

stephen.shore
stephen.shore

Apple's innovations: iPad Google's innovations: Google DNS Google Apps Google Docs Google Chome (Browser) Google Chome OS (in beta) Android Google Maps - Street View Google TV (almost forgot this one) Innovation to me is game changing new idea's implemented in existing, stale ideas. I think we have a clear winner.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Although a lot of innovation may have happened on the way to the release of any of the companies products, it is behind the scenes in most cases. I feel that the actual end-point product (iPad) released by Apple is something we can all look at and say - "that's innovative". eCommerce and Cloud Computing have effectively been around for years, and are just an evolving product. Microsoft tends to be a "me too" company rather than an innovator, despite no doubt doing some innovative things along the way. Cisco may be huge but their profile is mostly sitting on racks in server rooms, so difficult for the average person to quantify, Often their innovation tends to mean that yet another existing system becomes incompatible with the new technology, so adoption becomes an all or nothing exercise. The excitement of a new way of doing something tends to wear off by the time one has completed such an exercise. There are many other exciting products and innovations that will possibly change the world in bigger ways, but they are difficult to think of specifically. Some medical equipment or procedures, Mach 9 jet plane travel, battery technology, power saving technology, AJAX interfaces, more and more ubiquitous adoption of pdf as a format for electronic paper, plasma balls, fullerenes, DNA research, electroluminescent products, ePaper, the LCD in the OLPC XO (One Laptop Per Child) laptop is very innovative. As usual these spot surveys are shallow and uninformed. The results are really just hype, as the research content is nil.

bbeckers
bbeckers

My vote was for Microsoft. While Microsoft may not have produced as many breakthrough products as Apple and Google, there was a fundamental shift in Microsoft's product lines. Microsoft has, this year, fully embraced "cloud computing". Online offerings now include the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, Dynamics CRM Online, Lync Online, Exchange Hosted Services, and more on the way. This marks a *significant* departure from the traditional server-based products for which Microsoft has become known. These services will allow users to work from virtually anywhere the same way they would work from an office.

dogknees
dogknees

The cell was created this year. Tech doesn't have to be on sale to be tech. I would admit though that it's more science at this point.

kashyap.bikram
kashyap.bikram

the technology mentioned will have a very big impact, but a time frame cant be estimated precisely. also by the time it makes a big impact, it should have been modified by a lot.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

They did start a real rush in the fast food business, which for better or worse, has had a profound effect on our lifestyles.

Slayer_
Slayer_

They are a big contributer, think of it this way, if McDicks suddenly disappeared. Would that be a bigger impact, then say, if Red Lobster disappeared. In the same way, I think if EA didn't produce any games, we would see a bigger impact then if google never made their DNS service or Apple never made the iPad.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I think EA has done far more for the computer industry. There products help push hardware development forward and their advances affect more people

RockerGeek!
RockerGeek!

b/c they're SO well known. It's a huge name, and people are going to mistake them for being the "first" or "most innovative" just b/c they're Microsoft. VMware is amazing :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

So far it's a classic case of vaporware. Much ado about nothing, at least not yet. The case could be made that Android is the first Linux implementation to achieve name recognition in the consciousness of consumers.

bbeckers
bbeckers

I mostly agree with you. I do believe that the greatest innovations, which have the greatest impact on the industry, are not seen because they are mostly behind the scenes. (no flame intended below!) And regarding your comment: "As usual these spot surveys are shallow and uninformed. The results are really just hype, as the research content is nil." Keep in mind that these blog posts are not research projects. They are simply the opinion of the writer. The intent of the post is to spark discussion, (which this post has certainly done). I like to compare these posts to the technies talking in the break room. One person starts the conversation, and others chime in with their own opinions. I think it's great. Your reply, as an example, provides your point of view. And you have some great points!

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...is kind of a narrow window for judging actual impact. Question: are we talking about the impact *on* tech or the the impact *by* tech?

dogknees
dogknees

Impact Sales I think it had a major impact on biologists. Is impact measured by degree or by number oe people affected?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We're not talking about the future; we're talking about 2010.

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