Apple, Amazon, Google top Fortune's Most Admired list

Microsoft fell over CEO uncertainty, while Facebook gained 10 places after banner year

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
February 27, 2014
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Every year, Fortune puts out its list of Most Admired, and every year it's the same thing: Apple comes in first, while Google comes in second. It's been that way every year since 2010 and, frankly, it was getting a little bit boring.

Finally, though, there has been a little bit of a shakeup on the 2014 list, which was put out on Thursday. Not a big one, but notable enough to mention.

While Apple still topped the list, as it has done every year starting in 2008, Google finally got usurped. The Internet giant was pushed down to the number three position, by Amazon, which held third last year. 

The reason that Amazon is so widely admired is because of the loyalty of its customers and the breadth of its verticals.

"The e-commerce behemoth may be gobbling up brick and mortar businesses left and right, but's customer-centric culture and super-convenience has won the company millions of shoppers worldwide," Fortune said about the company.

"Amazon's ambitions show no signs of abating: it recently jumped into the art market, and has started producing video, music, and literary content."

The only problem, though: the company does not make enough money for Wall Street's taste.

Here is how my colleague Faith Merino described Amazon's business strategy in a profile on how it makes money:

"Amazon has long been seen as something of an anomoly in the business world. The company is all over the map when Wall Street attempts to guestimate its quarterly earnings, and when Amazon does manage to make money on razor thin margins, it reinvests all of it back into the business—a business that is nearly 20 years old and still laboring to stake its claim in the e-commerce land grab."

I know its maybe not the best way to excite shareholders, but I love the idea of a company taking its profits and putting them back into the business, rather than their own pockets. I wish more companies would do this!

At the same time, Google's spot may have dropped due to the whole NSA scandal, and the slight lack of trust that some may now feel toward the company.

"Though it dropped a spot to this year, Google continues to find ways to make life easier (sometimes creepily so) via mind-blowing Internet products," Fortune noted

Two other notable tech companies on the list seem to be going in different trajectories: Microsoft and Facebook.

Microsoft fell from 17th place last year, all the way down to 24th in 2014. It seems to be mostly due to the cloud that hung over the company for a good part of last year after long-time CEO Steve Ballmer announced his retirement in August. New CEO Satya Nadella was appointed earlier this month.

"The question of who would inherit Microsoft's CEO mantle gnawed at the tech giant for a good deal of 2013, but, ultimately, new chief Satya Nadella arrived on the heels of rosy earnings and strong sales of Xbox, tablets, and commercial cloud services," said Fortune.

Now Nadella's task is to take the company into the new world of mobile and clouds. It's pretty much make or break time for Microsoft. 

Facebook, meanwhile, rose 10 places, going from 48th on last year's list to 38 this year. Fortune only does analysis on the top 25 companies (you just made the cut, Microsoft!) but its not hard to see why Facebook would be more admired after the year it just had, especially when it comes to investors trusting it to make money in the long-term.

In its last quarterly earnings report, Facebook showed that mobile was not 50% of its ad revenue, and had crossed $1 billion for the first time. It's total was nearly as large as the company's total ad revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The past year also the company branch out into new territory, including search. I have to wonder, though, if its $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp might take away some of the admiration for Facebook, at least in the short-term.

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