What makes a company wired? We start by looking for the basics: strategic vision, global reach, killer technology. But that’s not enough. To land a spot on our annual Wired 40 list, a business also needs the X-factor – a hunger for new ideas and an impatience to put them into practice. Such companies inevitably become trendsetters, literally: As we debated and redebated the list this year, six major themes flickered into view. From the rise of peer production to the end of carbon pollution, they tell us where the world is heading. These are the companies leading the way.
2005 Rank: 02
Less cuddly but more profitable than ever, the monster from Mountain View has rivals but no peers. Is it a search engine? A media company? A software provider? Who cares? Microsoft, for one. Get ready for the grudge match of the decade.
2005 Rank: 01
In the drama of Apple’s resurgence, act one was forging the iTunes/iPod axis. Act two was bundling the iLife suite of creative tools with new computers. Adapting the Mac OS to run Windows apps natively would make a triumphant conclusion.
2005 Rank: 03
Smart design and rapid product development made Samsung tops in consumer electronics. What will the company do with its newly doubled research staff of 32,000 and a $40 billion budget? Next iPod, please!