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Top 10 tech leaders

Survey of more than 600 IT execs measures how vendors are perceived.

By Kathryn Korostoff, Network World
November 22, 2006 11:45 AM ET

Network World - We all hear people say that Cisco is the leader in networking or Microsoft is the leader in software. But what does it mean to be a leader? Beyond the top few, what other companies are perceived as leaders?

Finally, can a company be seen as a leader in some ways, but not in others? To find out, we surveyed 643 technology decision makers, asking them to rate technology companies on various types of leadership to see what patterns would emerge.

Slide show: Leadership survey

In this survey, Sage Research and Network World found that 10 companies of a finalist list of 30 led the pack in terms of perceived leadership -- no matter which leadership metric was used.

Apple is one standout example. In the world of enterprise computing, it often is thought of as a niche player -- yet the survey shows it is recognized widely for having superior leadership qualities and being a key technology industry leader. It is in a virtual three-way tie for the highest score on superior technology vision leadership.

An even greater surprise is IBM, a company that has reinvented itself at least twice in the last 20 years. Technology industry insiders often joke that the phrase "You won't get fired for buying IBM" is no longer relevant (or they replace IBM with Cisco).

But 10 (some would say 15) years after the rise and fall of the IBM-owned SNA market, IBM is still perceived widely as a leader; it's not just in the Top 10 but in the Top 3 of every leadership metric. IBM's role is very different from what it once was, but the company's dominance in select markets, such as servers and services, has earned it an important role in the minds of customers.

Cisco's high scores are less surprising, given its dominance in several key markets; its success reflects the fact that people are confident buying from the company.

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