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Industry Standard

10 companies that will make the Web grow


November 24, 1999
Web posted at: 11:49 a.m. EST (1649 GMT)

by Alex Lash

(IDG) -- It's the return of the mainframe, with a friendly new interface. But the old mainframe makers aren't the only ones cashing in. Dell and Compaq have used Windows and Intel's PC chips to build big back-room machines they hope will unseat the old big iron. Dell also gets credit as a business-to-business e-commerce pioneer. Compaq, on the other hand, provides a cautionary tale of bad business decisions and boardroom sagas.

And then there's the wild card: Linux. Several companies on this list have promised to contribute something to the open-source Linux operating system. Commercial Linux shipments are still negligible, however, which leaves companies like Red Hat Software, despite its sexy IPO, off our list at least this year. Instead, we turned to the Apache Software Foundation, whose Apache Web server is pervasive in the Internet Economy.

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  1. Apache : With the explosion of open-source software, you might well expect a Linux operating system company to crack our top 100. After all, the software may soon compete with Windows; and then there's Red Hat's recent runaway initial public offering. But let's face it: The Internet Economy would hardly collapse if Linux were to vanish.

  2. Apple Computer: Unlike certain other industry leaders, Apple can't claim a market cap in the hundreds of billions of dollars. But without Apple, the Internet probably wouldn't have grown as quickly as it did and consumer devices certainly wouldn't be as chic as they are today. Sure, Steve Jobs got the idea for the mouse and graphical user interface from a tour of Xerox's Silicon Valley research facility. But Apple's early PC popularity brought a host of new ideas to the masses.

  3. Compaq: A company can be as well known for its mistakes as its successes. Or, if you're Compaq Computer, you can be notorious for both.

  4. Dell Computer: Dell doesn't sell super-cheap PCs. And you won't catch it pushing desktops in cute candy colors. But unlike its rivals, the Austin, Texas-based PC maker has proven that big, established companies can peddle their wares online and be hugely rewarded for the effort.

  5. Hewlett-Packard: With a corporate philosophy embodied by the employee-empowering "HP way,"Hewlett-Packard has long been considered the most touchy-feely of the high-tech giants. But critics have openly questioned whether HP can cut it in the volatile Internet Economy.

  6. IBM: It's taken a long time, but Big Blue has finally discovered that its strengths in the old economy powerful computers, sophisticated software and a global consulting team are strengths in the new economy, too.

  7. Intel: Intel owns 85 percent of the desktop chip market. Impressive. But that's not the only big figure to come out of its Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters. The magic number as of late: 275.

  8. Microsoft: Sooner or later, the entire Internet Economy will go through Microsoft. At least that's Bill Gates' plan. During the past five years, Microsoft has made the Internet its top priority by retooling virtually every facet of its operation from industrial-strength servers to online services to handheld Windows devices.

  9. Oracle: Rivals are always accusing Larry Ellison of flights of fancy. And not just because he has his own MiG fighter jet. Whether building an over-the-top replica of a medieval Japanese estate or rolling out ill-fated Network Computers, one thing Ellison and his company can't be accused of is playing it safe.

  10. Sun Microsystems : From the outset, Sun Microsystems has helped to lay the foundation of the Internet Economy. And it's made a pile of cash in the process. Don't be fooled by the "open"rap: Sun has reaped a tidy profit from expensive servers and its proprietary Solaris operating system. The company has also been very reluctant to hand over Java its biggest contribution to the Net in recent years to a standards body.

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