The Evolution of a Revolution

When we launched our Information Technology 100 list in November, 1998, we expected our annual snapshots of a fast-changing industry to be dramatically different from one year to the next. How different, we had no idea. Some of the changes we expected. There was no way Dell Computer Corp. (DELL ), ranked No. 1 on that first list with revenue growth of 54% a year, could continue at that pace. Dell has shown up on every list, including the latest, our fourth. But it has slipped to No. 34, with growth of 20.8%.

The most dramatic changes have involved the Internet companies. There were 16 on that first list, led by America Online (AOL ). Some of the Class of 1998, such as Inc. (AMZN ) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO ), are struggling, while others have been acquired. This year's list has only one Internet company: Inc. (TVLY ), the travel site that is well on its way to profitability.

Our list, which was combined in 1999 with the Annual Report on Information Technology, has become far more, however, than a tabulation of who's hot and who's not. It has provided valuable clues to emerging and shifting trends in high technology. Insights gained from the list and annual report have become an integral part of our regular technology coverage.

In 1999, the list showed that the "arms merchants" of the Internet Age--equipment makers Cisco Systems (CSCO ), IBM (IBM ), and EMC (EMC )--were harvesting cash while the dot-coms burned it. Last year's list illuminated the trend toward providing technology as a service, whether information management, software applications, or storage and computing. This year's analysis is especially important because it spotlights the growing contribution of information technology to business efficiency.

Our annual reports, of course, are just part of our award-winning tech coverage--including our ahead-of-the-pack cover story two weeks ago on Microsoft Corp. (MSFT ) We're especially proud of two other issues pictured here: "Are You Web Smart?" in our BusinessWeek supplement in September looked at the impact on the users of information technology. And our "Rethinking the Internet" in March measured the enduring force of the Net on traditional corporations, even as the dot-com phenomenon fades.

So to get a sense of what to expect from high tech, be sure to read our special report. Besides gaining insight into the efficiency promised by high tech, you will meet some unfamiliar companies and get an investment idea or two. Then check out, where our online staff will profile more companies from the list and provide in-depth interviews with executives who are buying and selling technology. Since we only do this once a year, we want you to have plenty to chew on.

By Stephen B. Shepard, Editor-in-Chief

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