10 Top Innovative Companies

The American consumer spends his or her year having various products and services thrown their way until they’re wading through a stew of other companies’ stuff. An innovative business or brand, though, makes enough great products or does enough right to make portions of that stew go down a little smoother and make the entire buying experience worth savoring. These 10 companies did that with flourish this year, some with help from a familiar name, others despite sea-sized obstacles between themselves and the buyer base. All, however, have something to be proud of—and a lot more to offer—as the year draws to a close:

1. Microsoft

Windows Phone 7 manufacturers have only “sold” 1.5 million devices in six weeks—roughly equal to the number of Android phones activated every seven days. Yes, we know it’s been more than a year since the launch of Windows 7 and that there’s still no market for the Zune. But anyone remotely associated with the video game industry knows that Microsoft is no longer playing around with its Xbox and Xbox Live stable of products.

First off, after slimming its Xbox 360 hardware and just about eliminating the “red circle of death” failures that cost gamers hundreds of dollars in console investment, Microsoft snagged the console sales lead from Nintendo’s Wii and has held it for months. Also, after years of taking a back seat to the Wii’s fun little motion controllers and Miis and getting beaten to market by Sony’s PlayStation Move motion device, Microsoft sold 1 million versions of its $150 controller-free Kinect motion-capture device within 10 days of its Nov. 4 release and 2.5 million before the end of November. By all accounts, that should have been a tough sell, considering the console itself goes for as little as $199, but a good concept and great third-party partner products such as Viacom’s infectious Dance Central remind us what Microsoft is capable of when its back is to the wall.

Adding ESPN to Xbox Live and putting it all on Windows 7 Phones may be for naught if nobody buys the handsets, but it may have been enough to engage Sony, whose rumored PlayStation phone has appeared in photos on gamer blogs as a tease to a potential Consumer Electronics Show debut in January. Way to change the game, Microsoft.

2. Apple
When your product is left in a bar, completely torn down by Gizmodo, completely revealed to the world two weeks before launch, plagued with bad press over antenna problems immediately afterward and more than 14 million people still want one, that’s the sign of a great innovator. Oddly, the iPhone 4 and its insanely high-resolution “Retina display,” HD camera, FaceTime video conferencing, new version of iOS with AirPlay and AirPrint wireless functions weren’t even Apple’s biggest leap forward this year.

For all of their smartphone, monitor and Mac advances this year, this will be remembered as the year iPad made people ask “What’s a netbook?” and “Why do we need an eReader?” as they snapped up 7.5 million iPads in six months en route to a record $20.4 billion fourth quarter and a nearly 53% share price increase for Apple. With the rest of the tech world playing tablet catchup, Steve Jobs had good reason to smirk from his Infinite Loop stage this year.

3. Google
Say what you will about Google recent performance in the market and in monetizing its various products, but as far as innovation is concerned, there are still few who can match Cupertino. Google’s Android OS, which Gartner says had a roughly 2% share of the global market, has a nearly 20% share today and more than 100,000 applications.

Android has also surged to first place among operating systems in numbers of smarphones sold during the past two quarters, according to NPD Group, while iSuppli forecasts that Android will take the lead in U.S. market share by 2013. The Google TV Internet television initiative and its partnership with Sony may not be setting the world afire in sales, but—like AppleTV before it—it represents an important incremental step in the merger of Internet content and home entertainment and a huge leap toward greater integration. For every Google Buzz that lands with a thud, there are 25 acquisitions building up Google strengths, such as online video, photo, search and advertising. If only the kids at the Googleplex could inch that share price up a bit.

4. HTC
HTC had been making Windows Mobile phones for quite a while before introducing the world to the Android OS with its Dream handset. Now its Droid Incredible for Verizon and Evo 4G for Sprint have helped Android stand toe-to-toe with Apple and Research in Motion, and Google is hoping its technology can help and Android tablet pummel the iPad.

How good was HTC this year? Its share price is up 13% but, perhaps more tellingly, it was directly targeted by Apple in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission in March alleging infringement on Apple patents—something HTC vehemently denies. With Android demand growing and Microsoft pushing for Windows 7 smartphone success, HTC has found a way to reap all of the benefits of its handsets while dodging the criticism thrown at their operating systems.

5. Disney

Much like his real-life mouse counterparts, Mickey really knows how to wriggle his way into all corners. It’s easy to say Disney looks smart when just one of its movies, Toy Story 3, brought in more than $1 billion in revenue this year, but it’s Disney’s commitment to maximizing all its resources that makes it one of the best.

Take streaming video, for example: The piece of the Hulu joint venture owned by Disney’s ABC just became fairly lucrative, as Hulu’s CEO revised the year’s revenue estimates to $260 million from $240 million after a better-than-anticipated response to its $8-a-month subscription service. Meanwhile, Disney just signed a $150 million to $200 million one-year content deal with Netflix that includes not only the same content it’s giving Hulu (after a 15-day window) but older content Disney hasn’t wrung a cent from in a while. At the same time, its parks expand, its fleet of cruise ships grows, its television properties manage to negotiate higher fees (including ESPN’s highest-in-basic-cable $4.10 a month) and its audience for video game properties such as Epic Mickey for Nintendo’s Wii grows.

Revenue is up more than 5% this year, and the share price has jumped nearly 15%, with Disney’s tweaks helping the company live up to that “happiest place on Earth” claim.

6. Ford
Don’t call it a comeback. Ford was already in good shape last year, when old favorites such as the Taurus regained a foothold, share prices more than tripled and worried investors, execs and loyalists discovered all was not lost. This year was about maintaining that momentum, across all segments and among all sizes.

Equipping its whole line with such perks as the Microsoft-made Sync communications and entertainment system helps, but introducing an exciting newcomer such as the compact Fiesta, retooling favorites including the iconic SUV-turned-crossover Explorer and the funkier Focus and having it all coincide with Toyota’s safety-related losses resulted in a nearly 2%

7. Amazon
Almost invisibly Amazon has boosted revenue nearly 30% this year to date, to $5.5 billion, behind a smaller, lighter, less expensive $139 Kindle e-reader and its store of more than 720,000 books—including nearly 600,000 selling for less than $10 and not including 1.8 million free public-domain volumes.

Never mind Amazon’s segmented sales categories such as Amazon Student and Amazon Mom that offer promotions, discounts and Amazon Prime free two-day shipping. Pay no attention to Amazon Web Services as it drops prices, adds usage tiers and incorporates tools from Oracle to help developers launch apps. The key to Amazon’s continued success is constant upgrades and tweaks to its Kindle offerings, including the launch of two in-house publishing imprints and the cross-platform growth of Kindle apps for Apple, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry and Google Android products. Amazon realized well before announcing it this summer that e-books were going to outsell hardcovers, but now that the gap has grown to nearly 2-to-1, it takes a clever company to increase its advantage in a digital media sector facing tough competition from Google and Apple.

8. BYD
Back in 2008, a tiny branch of Berkshire Hathaway bought a 10% interest in China’s BYD—which makes cell phone batteries, solar panels and environmentally friendly automobiles—for $230 million. Warren Buffett’s piece of that company was worth $2 billion by the end of last year as BYD profits tripled and its stock price grew 400%. That’s not on the way down, either, as BYD announced a plug-in hybrid vehicle earlier this year and was commissioned by China, in a joint venture with Germany’s Daimler, to help that nation’s green push by building electric cars. Early estimates have those hybrids and electrics being shipped to Europe by next year; the company is testing a fleet of its F3DM electric cars with the Housing Authority of Los Angeles this year; has an eye toward U.S. electric bus sales by next year; and car sales by 2012.

9. Fast Retailing
The average consumer still doesn’t recognize the name Fast Retailing, but anyone who’s shopped at its Uniqlo store in SoHo or bought some of its theory apparel knows there’s a lot of hipster growth potential still untapped.

Fast Retailing is a 47-year-old Japanese clothing company that’s the largest such chain in Asia—more than 960 stores. It mandates that all employees speak English and write all company e-mail in english by 2012, expects the number of foreign employees to eclipse Japanese workers by 2015 and looks to expand into India, Brazil and the U.S. to grow its global presence to 4,000 stores by 2020, presenting a formidable challenge to such global competitors as H&M. The company wants to open 200 stores in the U.S. alone within the next decade and plans to hire dozens of U.S. college grads this year and send them to Japan for management training.

Granted, Uniqlo has closed seven stores here since 2007, but company revenue has also risen 15% in that time as it stuck to its eclectic mix of artists and designers and let tastes change in its favor.

10. Haier
Quick, who’s the No. 1 appliance maker in the world? If you didn’t guess that Chinese company you’d never heard of that made the college dorm fridges you saw at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sears all summer, shame on you. According to Euromonitor International, Haier has ascended to the top spot in global appliance sales, commanding 6.1% of the world’s white goods market.

That is a 20% improvement from last year, but it also masks Haier’s 12.5% share of the world’s refrigerator market and 9.8% of its laundry machine purchases. Revenue is up roughly 22% since 2006, and it’s based on two factors: price and demographic. It doesn’t take an innovator to offer cheap mini-fridges, microwaves and air conditioners, but innovation helps if you want to do all of that and cater to twentysomething urbanites by nearly cornering the market on wine refrigerators, portable washers and countertop dishwashers. Its growing share of the keg refrigerator/tap market, while not nearly as inexpensive, also seems to speak to a very specific audience.
Written by Jason Notte in Boston
Source: Newsweek


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Key benefits of outsourcing to us:
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Standards make the world accessible for all

The theme of this year’s World Standards Day message is “Standards make the world accessible for all”. With at least 650 million people globally affected by some kind of disability, combined with the rising numbers of older people in the world’s population – one quarter of all citizens are 60 or older– the issue of accessibility to products and services has become more important than ever.

The World Standards Day message is signed by the leaders of the three principal international standardization organizations: Mr. Jacques Régis, President of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Dr. Alan Morrison, President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, service, environment or facility is usable by as many people as possible, including by persons with disabilities. The issue of accessibility has become more critical with the increasing number of older people in the population worldwide.

But accessibility is not only an issue for the elderly or disabled. Accessibility solutions also allow products to be more appealing to a general audience. For example, a well designed wheelchair ramp for the benefit of the motor impaired also provides an easy and practical environmental useful to everyone, including a new mother with a baby carriage.

International standards developed by IEC, ISO and ITU, based on international consensus, give manufacturers and service providers the guidelines on how to design products accessible for all.

For the three leaders, “International standards facilitate everybody’s access to products, structures and services. They include safety considerations, ergonomics and harmonized test methods all geared to increase accessibility. Standards also provide a platform for the dissemination of technological innovations both in developed and developing countries. They help markets to grow faster and increase global trade.”

The leaders of the three organizations conclude their message: “IEC, ISO and ITU coordinate their work and offer a system of standardization that helps designers, manufacturers and policy makers to make the world safer and more accessible for all, today and tomorrow.”
Source: iso.org

“.vn” is the most dangerous domain in the world?

McAfee, using the database of Global Threat Intelligence service, analyzed 27 million websites from 120 countries. The database gathers the information from 150 million photodiodes located in 120 countries.

McAfee has found out that 58 percent of websites with the domain suffix “. vn” contain penetrating codes. When accessing the dangerous websites, computer users would have their sensitive information stolen. In general, 6.2 percent of total 27 million websites have been considered as “having high risks”. The figure is higher than the figure released last year, 5.9 percent.

Other websites which are considered high risk may contain some penetrating software which exploit programming holes to install attacking codes onto the computers of Internet users.

The web environment has become harsher – this is the conclusion by McAfee when viewing the recent activities of hackers.

The survey by McAfee pointed out that Vietnam has become the attractive destination for high-technology criminals in this year. In 2009, Vietnam’s domains only ranked 39th on the list of the riskiest domains worldwide. In this year’s report, Vietnam’s domains rank third on the list of most dangerous domains (29.4 percent), just behind commercial domains “.com” (31.3 percent) and “. infor”. Meanwhile, “.vn” is considered the most dangerous national domain in the world.

About 15,000 out of 24,000 websites with suffix “. vn” have been reportedly exploited and controlled by hackers.

Other national domains which also have high risks include Cameroon (.cm – 22,2%), Armenia (.am – 12,1%), Cocos (.cc – 10,5%) and Russia (.ru – 10,1%).

Among general domains, domains with the suffix “. infor” became popular in 2010 with its number of dangerous websites increasing by 94.5 percent. The number of risky domains with the suffix “.com” has reached one million.

To explain the increases of the penetrating activities, McAfee Labs’ Internet Security Research Director Paula Greve said hackers always target the regions which have low website registration fees and low risks of being discovered. Therefore, very safe websites this year can be the targets of hackers the next year.

However, Buu dien newspaper quoted Hoang Minh Cuong, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Internet Network Information Centre (VNNIC) as saying that there are many “doubtful” points in the survey. “It is nearly impossible to see the number of dangerous websites increasing so dramatically over just one year,” he said.

Agreeing with Cuong, Nguyen Minh Duc, Director of BKIS (Bach Khoa Internet Security Centre), also said BKIS is quite surprised with the survey released by McAfee, especially because BKIS always works with malicious websites containing the codes exploited in Vietnam. BKIS thinks that the result released by McAfee is not very accurate. Among the 25,000 surveyed domains (Vietnam now has 170,000 websites with “.vn” domain, more than 50 percent of which are websites with malicious codes. “This means that there is a high probability of accessing the “.vn” websites which contain malicious codes. Meanwhile, the probability is low for normal internet users.

According to BKIS, in 2009, 1000 website attack cases in Vietnam were reported, while the figure in 2010 is about 700-800. The attacks mostly targeted the government’s websites (“.gov.vn”).

Buu dien also has quoted Vu Quoc Khanh, Director of Vietnam Computer Emergency Respond Team (VNCERT) under the Ministry of Information and Communication as saying that the ministry will contact McAfee to clarify the method McAfee used.

Prior to that, Kaspersky also released a report with similar pessimistic result.
Source: VietNamNet Bridge

Better city, better life with ICT

In the urban context, ICTs have increasingly dictated lifestyles and behaviour patterns and contributed to the growth of trade and commerce, improved governance and municipal services, and revolutionized entertainment through the development of rapid communications, both mobile and fixed.

ICTs provide solutions to many of the problems facing cities even as they become magnets for migrating populations as well as contribute to making them more eco-friendly and economically viable. For many city dwellers, it is nearly impossible to imagine life without ICTs. From television to mobile phones and the Internet, ICTs have reshaped the world, helping billions of people to live, work and play in the most creative ways. ICTs present innovative ways of managing our cities — smart buildings, intelligent traffic management, new efficiencies in energy consumption and waste management, and not least exchanging information and knowledge and communicating on the move in an increasingly converged information society.

While the world’s cities are undoubtedly endowed with many advantages, the disparities between the haves and the have nots among urban populations is often a vivid reminder that the vast majority is left out of the reach of development. It is ironic that even in densely populated urban centres countless millions are deprived of access to the means of communication and information that are taken for granted by others. Along with this growing digital divide, the lack of safe drinking water, sanitation, food, shelter, health care and education are basic needs that are addressed by the Millennium Development Goals, which call for the significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

By tapping into the huge potential of ICTs to improve the lives of people and by providing affordable and equitable access to information and knowledge to empower everyone to achieve their aspirations, administrations can contribute towards meeting the rising expectations of an ever-growing population in the world’s cities. Acting as catalysts for a more productive and better life, ICTs open the door to the myriad solutions that can help achieve harmony among the spatial, social and environmental aspects of cities and their inhabitants.

The World Summit on the Information Society, which met in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005, called upon countries to consider establishing national mechanisms to achieve universal access in both underserved rural and urban areas in order to bridge the digital divide. ITU is committed to connecting the world and to ensure that the benefits of ICT reach the remotest parts of the world, including the millions who remain unconnected in our teeming cities.

I urge you to celebrate this special 145th anniversary of ITU by focusing on connecting people around the world and harnessing the full potential of ICTs so that we can all enjoy a more productive, peaceful and — in every way — a better life.

I. Touré

ITU Secretary-General

Source: ict.int

Biggest Barriers to Business Analytics Adoption: People, Not Tech

Business analytics is atop most companies’ apps wish lists. The business goal, of course, is to make sense of the enormous amount of data and information housed in their servers—and stop making critical decisions from the gut.

“The combination of an increasingly complex world, the vast proliferation of data, and the pressing need to stay one step ahead of the competition has sharpened focus on using analytics within organizations,” notes a new study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value and MIT Sloan Management Review.

The problem, however, is that the adoption of analytics is being hindered not by technology but by age-old people problems: change management and cultural resistance.

“The adoption barriers organizations face most are related to management and culture rather than being related to data and technology,” states the IBM/MIT study, which surveyed nearly 3,000 executives and business analysts from 108 countries and 30 industries.

Here are the top obstacles to widespread corporate adoption and use of analytics (up to three answers were accepted):

  • 38% Lack of understanding of how to use analytics to improve the business
  • 34% Lack of bandwidth due to competing priorities
  • 28% Lack of skills internally in the line of business
  • 23% Existing culture does not encourage sharing information

Surprisingly, the study pointed out that “getting the data right” (a.k.a. “data quality” and “one version of the truth”) was near the bottom of the barriers to adoption list: Approximately one in five of the respondents cited concern over data quality or ineffective data governance as a primary obstacle to adoption.

“Organizations that use analytics to tackle their biggest challenges are able to overcome seemingly intractable cultural challenges and, at the same time, refine their data and governance approaches,” notes the study.

Even given those hurdles, respondents in the study said that they remain bullish on information analytics and how it will help their companies make better and faster decisions.

“Over the next two years, executives say they will focus on supplementing standard historical reporting with emerging approaches that make information come alive,” states the IBM/MIT study.”These include data visualization and process simulation, as well as text and voice analytics, social media analysis, and other predictive and prescriptive techniques.”

Based on this study, execs might want to ensure that those employees tasked with using these new analytical tools are actually ready, willing and able to carry out their assignments.
By Thomas Wailgum
Source: cio.com

Industries Served

We pour all our energy into realizing this one goal. This demands absolute professionalism, loyalty and openness. Accordingly, we create an atmosphere and spirit of mutual trust and constructive dialog. We see our clients and consultants as a joint team. That is why partnership is one of our core values.

We also walk customers through the practical outworking of our strategies – to guarantee that they really work in practice. Partner-ship is likewise anchored in our organizational ethos. We constantly improve our skills and encourage constructive teamwork. Depending on the nature of a project, we hand-pick industry experts and functional specialists to assemble project teams that give each client exactly what they need. Every time.

How to Build an IT Culture of Trust

What’s the secret to a high-performing team? Trust. This was one of the key themes at the CIO 100 symposium in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.,

Many IT staffs toil under type-A managers who foster fear and distrust, says Frank Wander, CIO at The Guardian Life Insurance Company and a conference keynote speaker. “The higher the stress, distrust and anger, the slower the project moves,” he says, adding, “Companies might as well be throwing their money away.”

CIO 100 conference attendees told me that their organizations have all sorts of team problems, from a culture of blame at the highest levels to IT workers resentful about job cuts and long hours of yesteryear. IT workers might be glad to be collecting a paycheck, but they’re certainly not glad to be on the job, attendees said.

“Yet it’s this glad-to-be-here attitude that you need to create,” says John Foley, a former pilot of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and another keynote speaker at the conference.

Foley peppered his speech with fascinating details about the culture and precision of the Blue Angels aerial team. In one formation, the planes fly only 18 inches apart. How does the Blue Angels create a culture with this kind of high performance and trust?

Tools You Can Use

One of Foley’s tools is the debriefing meetings pilots have after every flight. In this meeting, no detail is too big or too small to be brought up, from personality clashes to the way they march to their airplanes. Usually, the most senior guy goes first, brings up what he did wrong, and then concludes with the words, “I’ll fix it.” This self-accountability from the top sets the tone for the culture of trust.

Another Foley tool: verbal contracts. By telling other team members what you are going to do, or even being told what not to do, builds a level of trust and leads to greater levels of execution, he says. That’s because verbal contracts carry the weight of personal responsibility.

Lastly, the Blue Angels pilots, engineers and ground crew will often finish a conversation with the words, “Glad to be here.” This attitude of gratefulness is a key ingredient for building trust between team members, Foley says.

Conversely, a distrustful culture leads to fear, which leads to a kind of paralysis of creativity, Wander says. Wander is often called in to fix major problems at companies. He’s had six major turnarounds. The number one reason for failure, he says, is a culture of fear. “I’ve fired a lot of people” who had fostered fear in the workplace, he says.

He cites the natural tendencies of human beings to succumb to fear, as well as an uncaring management tradition stemming from assembly-line production, as root causes for why so many IT departments have “emotionally toxic work environments.”

Only be reversing this trend and caring for employees can CIOs release the human potential for creativity, Wander says. “Trust energizes the place.”
By Tom Kaneshige
Source: cio.com

IT Outsourcing Market

Last week, the Information technology (IT) research firm Capgemini released a study on the state of IT outsourcing where they surveyed over one thousand executives of the top global companies. The study found that 25 percent of the executives said they already outsource to South America, compared with 27 percent who outsource to China and 60 percent to India. Although India and China are still the top destinations for outsourcing, South America is catching up rather quickly.

Among the executives who said their company already outsourced IT operations, the top four key factors are: Labor cost, Skilled worker, Infrastructure, and Economic stability. The least relevant are proximity to the U.S. and time zone alignment. Among executives who have not do business in South America, 24 percent said they expect their companies to outsource there in the next five years. While it may come as no surprise that India is still on top but based on this study, China and South America is very much occupied the same level although China has been active in IT outsourcing for many years and South America is just a newcomer to this market.

According to Steve Rudderham, Vice President of a large company, South America countries have made significant improvement in recent years by creating highly skilled workforce with modernized IT infrastructure and their costs is similar to India and China as these two countries have raised the prices significantly due to the shortage of skilled people there. Another advantage is the proximity to the U.S where it only takes few hours from most major cities in the U.S to fly to South America. However, according to him the key competition between China and S. America is NOT about prices or proximity but in the mastering of English language. Today China have a plan to train 300 million people to speak English in the next five years to prepare for their advancement in global economy. Most South America countries also have problem with English language as their languages are mostly Spanish and Portuguese (Brazil). If their software workers can speak English well, it would be difficult to predict who will be the winner. Another issue that many companies are taken into consideration is the advancement of China in technologies and the lack of intellectual property protection for foreign companies. One executive warned: “You may reduce costs today but by outsource and giving them your technology, they will compete with you few years from now. It would be safer to outsource where you still have better advantage”. That is another reason why S. America maybe the next destination for outsourcing.

According to the survey data, currently 60% of companies already outsource to India, 27% to China and 25% to S. America, 12% to Philippines, 5% to Russia and Eastern Europe. The main reasons to outsource are: 85% on costs, 83% on skills, 80% on infrastructures and 80% on economic stability.
Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
Source: SEGVN