#5) Google. While Google's enterprise-oriented team makes up only a tiny portion of the company's overall revenue, I've picked Google for two very different reasons. First, its focus on new ways of looking at how to capture, manipulate, and deploy vast quantities of information has proven to be enormously influential for customer-side companies of all types, as well as for the IT vendors who now clearly regard Google as a leading-edge indicator of bold new concepts and customer practices.
From cloud computing to video to mobile, Google's influence has become staggering, even if that magnitude is not directly reflected in the size of its official Enterprise business. Second, Android is clearly having a profound impact on the mobile market, and that heightened competition from yet one more brilliant engineering company is great for consumers and business users alike.
#4 Oracle. Larry Ellison saw and pounced on the notion of "optimized systems" at a time when more and more of the IT industry was stratifying into the isolated worlds of hardware over here and software over there. As one writer at a well-known investors' website chirped in criticizing the Oracle-Sun deal not long after it was announced, Oracle's just a software company—what the heck do they know about hardware? In fact, that question—for all of the totally wrong reasons—captured the enormous impact of Ellison's move: as enterprise software and hardware become more sophisticated, the only way to wring out their full potential is to remake that model of isolated worlds and instead start bring software and hardware together in highly engineered, integrated, and optimized systems offering levels of performance, power, and speed that can't be touched by generic make them more work together more effectively.
And ever since Ellison and Oracle began the integrated push with Exadata 2 years ago, highly engineered and optimized systems have become one of the hottest sectors in the IT market. Along with Oracle's new Fusion applications that will become available in 2011, and the company's ongoing acquisition strategy, Ellison's evangelism of optimized systems and unified stacks have made Oracle a forceful leader in the IT industry.
#3) Facebook. I've met with dozens of enterprise software companies this year to hear about their strategies and roadmaps, and if I had a dollar for each time one said something like, "It's like Facebook for the enterprise," then I'd have a pretty fat pile of cash.
Whether Facebook itself ever becomes an enterprise player is irrelevant to this selection: rather, it's become the model that shows the power of collaboration and is turning the old bromide of knowledge is power into the new promise that real power comes from sharing knowledge. From Salesforce.com's Chatter to Jive's new Social Business to the deeply collaborative features woven intimately into the new enterprise apps from SAP and Oracle, Facebook has made its mark on enterprise software for many years to come. Along those lines: are some of you CIOs out there still banning the use of Facebook at work? If so, please ask yourself whether you're doing that because you're afraid of change or because of the long-rumored security challenges. And if your answer is the latter, then please ask yourself one more question: hundreds and hundreds of global corporations allow their employees to use Facebook—why aren't you willing to tackle the the related security issues to give your company this demonstrable competitive advantage?
#2) Apple. The iPhone was a huge and unexpected enterprise success, but the iPad is becoming a massively disruptive game-changer for the enterprise. Apple is selling every single iPad it can make because it is the deeply personal and fully mobile computer that so many of us have wanted for so long.
It's not a notebook and it's not a laptop and it's not a smartphone: it is a truly "personal" computer that takes the best of all those other form factors and blends them into a beautiful new machine with which many businesses are falling in love. SAP is using the functionality of the iPhone and the iPad as primary factors in for how SAP's new apps will work, and other enterprise software companies are also beginning to look at the iPad as not just one of many output devices on which their apps need to work but instead as the primary, market-defining standard around which future strategies and features are created. I'm not saying Apple is an enterprise IT vendor, but whether or not Apple wants to be thought of as an enterprise IT supplier, the inescapable truth is that many millions of iPads and iPhones are being used inside businesses today and those numbers will explode in 2011. To you CIOs out there: are you fighting this surging tide, hoping you can find a way to tread water til it subsides, or are you looking to rise up with it?
And here's company #1: