Qualcomm emerged as the vendor in Smartphones. It was the only vendor to both anticipate the need for better graphics by acquiring technology for AMD and buy a company building next-generation Transflective displays. Of the vendors in their space they seem to be the most driven competitively and most strategic and focused in terms of acquisitions and internal development efforts. For instance, their coming Skifta application could redefine both the smartphone and the universal remote control, connecting the control to content directly and not just to the devices that play it.
Strategy is often a term that is often used but relatively poorly understood by most companies; Qualcomm appears to be the exception that understands and funds big strategic moves best.
NVIDIA is doing the most work to promote GPU computing and much of what is being done is in pharmaceuticals and medical research. They seemed to get that they had to step out of the box to compete with Intel and by so doing created the least expensive super computers on the planet. This power is currently being used to create solutions to medical problems. Of all the firms, it is the most likely to be connected to something that could save each of our lives. Staying alive remains a high priority and helping me do that puts NVIDIA on this list.
If it is a product I cover and Panasonic is in the space, they have the best one. This includes digital cameras, 3D TVs, and particularly hardened laptops. Panasonic is the only laptop builder that consistently builds products that you can stake your life on. The Toughbook remains the best-hardened laptop in the world. They also were the only vendor that recognized the need for a combined solar/fuel cell solution for the home and presented it at the last CES. The company acquired Sanyo to complete the solution.
Saving lives and thinking ahead of the market puts them on this list. On a related point, it was founded by Konosuke Matsushita, who built the company out of nothing and held customers and customer loyalty as his primary goal. He remains one of the greatest examples of how to be successful by treating your employees and customers well. Something too many companies forgot last year.
We, as analysts, tend to spend a lot of time as critics and not enough time pointing out what companies did right. I dont expect that will change, but this week is about excellence and these firms each stood out in my mind in the technology market as firms that exceeded one or more key expectations and demonstrated excellence in 2010.