The company that IT pros like you pick as their favorite might come as no surprise: Microsoft. Among the companies that Windows IT Pro Industry Survey 2004 respondents identified as most admired, Microsoft came up 861 times. And 485 respondents said Microsoft was the company they'd most like to work for. The two top reasons for selecting Microsoft were technology and innovation. You marveled that the company "produces products that impact the entire world," "put a desktop in every home," and "makes some pretty good software."

Readers also admire Microsoft for its business practices, which you described as "aggressive," "undaunting," and "not all bad." Many of you who criticized Microsoft's practices still admired the company. "Everyone loves to hate Microsoft, but look how they're doing," one reader said. And it's not only investors who share in the company's profits, another reader reminds us. "Microsoft's founders donate some of their wealth to non-profits." For example, since the inception of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the Gates have endowed their nonprofit organization with $27 billion, pledged $3 billion in proceeds from the special stock dividend announced last summer, and reported paying $7.2 billion in grants to charities such as the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Who Else Do You Love?
All of the top 10 most-admired companies were large and well-known businesses. Again, you listed technology and innovation as the dominant reasons you admire these companies. You recognized Cisco Systems for "creating the means to interconnect networks," IBM for "hardware, research, and development," and Google for "attempting to organize the Web."

Even in companies that didn't make the top 10, technology is king. Many readers wrote about Research In Motion, makers of the Blackberry devices. EBay received votes for "creating something new and truly innovative." Some respondents didn't list a specific company but trumpeted the technological traits they respected, such as "integrating technology into everyday items" and "being open with technologies." One reader said of his list of admired companies, "They all invest heavily in cutting-edge research and development."

Product quality and service followed closely behind innovation as key reasons you admire a company. Readers respect Dell for "excellent customer service and products." Big Blue has shaken its image of spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt—at least for the reader who wrote "IBM has come back with more respect for its customers." One reader noted that "HP has the best hardware and services around," and another said he "loves their servers."

Readers also recognized companies' current success as well as their past contributions. You admire Dell because the company has "handled fast growth extremely well." Although many of you admire Apple Computer for its products, another reader said he liked Apple for just "hanging in there." Many of HP's votes mentioned DEC and Compaq (now both owned by HP). One reader picked "DEC, Fairchild, and Texas Instruments," without which "most of our industry wouldn't exist." Another reminds us that "the things people take for granted today were cool inventions by high-tech companies of the past." (For more information about outstanding contributions to our industry, see "Windows IT Pro Hall of Fame.")

I'd Really Like to Work for ...
Eight of the top 10 most admired companies also made it to the "company you'd most like to work for" top 10 list. Sun Microsystems and Oracle dropped off the list, and business software and services company SAS and Linux distributor Red Hat took the ninth and tenth spots, respectively. Many readers also commented that they were or would like to be self-employed; still others indicated that they'd rather work for a small company than for a large one. A few readers wanted to work at "any Fortune 500" company.

Many software companies that make products that IT pros use were high on the coveted employers list. Most prominently mentioned were Novell, Citrix Systems, Computer Associates (CA), and Symantec. Infosys Technologies and Wipro received votes in the services and consulting sector. IT pros also voted for technology-related entertainment companies such as Pixar, Electronic Arts (EA), id Software, Blizzard Entertainment, LucasArts, DreamWorks, and Industrial Light & Magic. PC component—makers AMD and 3Com held places, too.

So Many Companies
Although large companies came out on top of our survey in both categories, IT pros commended 236 companies. One reader said he admired any company that can make a buck and stay afloat. Surviving as a technology company can be difficult at times, but plenty of companies are successful and earn the respect of the IT pro community.