And the Winners are ...
Our picks for the brainiest businesses and businesspeople of the year.
(Business 2.0) - Smartest CEO: ROBERT IGER
Iger didn't just clean up the mess he inherited from former Disney chief Michael Eisner--he began reinventing the company. After restoring peace to a war-torn boardroom, Iger struck a landmark deal with Apple that made ABC the first network to sell video à la carte through iTunes. He also spearheaded a plan to get Disney video content on cell phones, led ABC and ESPN to record years, and scored a badly needed hit with Chicken Little, Disney's first home-brewed computer-animated feature film.
Smartest Turnaround: MOTOROLA
A year ago, mobile-phone maker Motorola was struggling to regain its footing after years of stagnation. Now, CEO Ed Zander's intense focus on product design has paid dividends in the form of the hit Razr clamshell, which is on track to boost Motorola's U.S. market share by 24 percent. When the final tallies are in, Motorola's '05 sales should be up about 17 percent, with net profits climbing a whopping 45 percent.
Smartest Technology: RSS
At long last, really simple syndication, or RSS, came into its own. Developed by Silicon Valley technologist Dave Winer, RSS makes it easy for popular sites such as CNN, Reuters, and Yahoo--and tens of thousands of bloggers--to distribute online text, audio, and video worldwide. RSS has been around since 1997, but it got a big boost in the past year as Microsoft announced plans to integrate it into Windows, letting RSS do for online media what the Web did for the Internet.
Smartest New Product: BOEING 787
With soaring fuel costs weighing down the industry, Boeing couldn't have timed the launch of the 787 any better. Made from lightweight composites and aluminum, Boeing's ultraefficient jumbo jet will reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent per flight when it begins service in 2008. After a slow sales start, airlines enthusiastically embraced the 787 last year as Boeing landed 354 orders worth more than $46 billion--beating Airbus in new airplane orders for the first time since 2000.
Smartest Exit Strategy: SKYPE
Launch an Internet startup. Let your customers use your technology for free. Sell out for billions. That's how it was done in the 1990s, and that was the outcome when VOIP provider Skype sold itself to eBay for $2.6 billion in September. Founded by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who previously created the Kazaa file-swapping service, Skype has 66 million users and expected annual sales of $60 million. Is the young company worth 43 times revenues? Who cares--that's eBay's problem now.
Smartest Ad Campaign: GODADDY.COM
Cynics scoffed when the then-unknown Web hosting provider agreed to pay $4.8 million to air a 30-second spot twice during the Super Bowl. GoDaddy's ad, a spoof of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," ran during the first quarter, but Fox pulled it before it could appear again in the fourth. As news of the controversy mushroomed, traffic to GoDaddy.com soared; by April the company had passed Network Solutions to become the Web's leading domain-name registrar.
Smartest Entrepreneur: JEREMY ALLAIRE
Last March, Allaire--who sold his previous company, Allaire Corp., to Macromedia for $360 million in 2001--pulled the wraps off his latest startup: Brightcove. The new company, which provides infrastructure to distribute ad- and subscription-supported video over the Internet, landed $21.7 million in venture capital. Allaire, 34, also persuaded Barry Diller to join Brightcove's board and AOL to sign on as an investor and client. The online video market may be worth $16 billion by 2010.
Smartest Innovation: WITHHELD
Innovation is like a New Year's resolution: easy to talk about but hard to pull off. We define it as a product or business model that's truly new and genuinely successful. That's why last year was a letdown. Apple? Its growth had much to do with incremental tweaks to existing products. Ditto for Del.icio.us, Flickr, and MySpace, which are built around decade-old ideas about social networking. Let's hope for better pickings next year.
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