10 tech firms that should get more damn respect

Why don't people get tattoos of these firms' logos?

Samsung fridges

Technology is a funny business. Some firms are arrogant and expensive, but people hang on their CEO's every word, queue overnight for slightly improved versions of their products and get tattoos of the company logo on their intimate parts.

Other firms are innovative, interesting or amazing, and yet the only thing you'll see at their press conferences is tumbleweed. Sometimes it's because of past mistakes. Sometimes it's because their rivals are better at PR. Sometimes it's because they also make lawnmowers or dangerous toys. And sometimes it's just baffling.

So which firms don't get the respect they deserve? We'd like to nominate 10:

1. Nokia

Apple gets the headlines, but Nokia's the big hitter of mobile: according to industry analysts Canalys, Nokia shipped 21.4 million smartphones in the first quarter of this year, giving it 38.8% market share. It shipped more touch-screen phones than Apple (10 million compared to 8.8 million) and it's miles ahead of HTC (2.8 million smartphones shipped in the same period). It's a giant in ordinary handsets too: it shipped its billionth phone way back in 2005.

Nokia 5800

BIG SELLER: The iPhone may get the headlines, but Nokia's still doing the big numbers. It shipped 21 million smartphones in the first quarter of this year

2. Microsoft

It's got a terrible public image, but for every Internet Explorer 6 there's a Windows 7, an Xbox 360 or - yes! - a Zune HD. Microsoft is more like a country than a company, and in addition to its consumer products and increasingly impressive Windows Live offerings its many divisions include some extraordinary talent producing products on which entire industries depend. No, we don't mean the tech support industry.

3. Samsung

Oh, the irony: Samsung makes fridges, and yet the company isn't cool. That's a shame, because it's a hugely important firm. It's the global leader in memory chips, flash storage and solid state drives, and it's got a finger in every electronic pie from smartphones to steam washers. If you go through its history - which takes a while; it's been around since 1938 - you'll get fed up with the phrases "world's first" and "world's smallest, lightest". Its fridges are pretty good too.

4. AMD

Forever in the shadow of its former partner Intel – AMD's market share has been slipping, with IDC reporting that its share of the overall CPU market is now 18.8% - AMD has made some amazing processors, and its takeover of ATI means it makes some amazing graphics cards, too. Its new Fusion strategy - accelerated processing units or APUs that combine CPUs and GPUs - could be enormous, especially in laptops and tablet PCs.

5. Opera

It's hard not to say "plucky Norwegians" whenever we talk about Opera. The plucky Norwegians have been at the cutting edge of browser innovation for years, only for rivals to nick all their best ideas and dominate the market. Tabbed browsing, page zooming, popup blocking, speed dial, private data deletion and many, many more all debuted in Opera before turning up in other browsers. The current browser's rather nifty, too.


INNOVATOR: Most of the features you're used to in your browser first appeared in Opera. We're baffled by its tiny share of the browser market

6. RealNetworks

We take online music and video for granted today, but 1995's RealAudio - and RealVideo two years later - felt like it had been sent to us from the future. Suddenly the internet offered even more than GeoCities pages about cats. Upstarts stole its crown - hello, Flash! - but RealNetworks effectively invented streaming media. These days its focus is mainly on mobile phones.

7. Yahoo

For all its weird acquisitions - it's bought pretty much every firm on the planet apart from the odd Cornish Pasty manufacturer - and subsequent shut-downs of services it just couldn't make work, Yahoo is one of the most profitable internet companies on the planet with the world's biggest email service and a selection of hugely popular portals. It invented the search engine, too. Despite its size and power, however, Yahoo only gets headlines when boss Carol Bartz says something controversial.

8. Linux

It's a movement rather than a firm, of course, but we think Linux still deserves to be here: from making netbooks work to powering Android phones and generally making Microsoft get its act together, Linux has been enormously influential. It might be considered more cool if journalists could get through just one Linux-mentioning article without also mentioning beards and hippies. Oops.


SUCCESS: Linux - shown here in Ubuntu flavour - has been enormously influential in PCs, netbooks and smartphones

9. 7Digital

Preaching the gospel of DRM-free downloads long before the rest of the industry finally saw the light, the 100% DRM-free, UK-based 7Digital has never been afraid to try different things to see what works - which is probably why it's had happy relationships with everyone from the Stones to Spotify. 7Digital is digital music done right.

10. Sharp

Ending its sponsorship of Manchester United appears to have dented its UK image, but Sharp's an innovative and interesting firm - especially in TV technology, where it's added yellow to the traditional red, green and blue of LCD displays to boost brightness. Its 3D panels promise "unprecedented picture quality" for 3D TV and it intends to bring glasses-free 3D to mobile phones and other devices too.


LOOK SHARP: Can anyone remember the name Sharp gives its clever flat-screen TVs? No, we can't remember it either. If only there was some kind of clue


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