The itp.net Top 100 - the Top Ten

The results are in - after much deliberation over many nominations of the highest calibre, itp.net presents it list of the ten most exceptional IT companies in the Middle East

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By  Published  March 11, 2008

The results are in - after much deliberation over many nominations of the highest calibre, the itp.net editorial team presents it list of the ten most exceptional IT companies in the Middle East. Any comparison between companies operating in as diverse a market as the IT industry is going to be difficult, but we are confident that this overall Top 10 represents those companies with the investment, innovation and commitment to lead the region's IT market.

1. Cisco

Cisco leads the regional market in networking and in security, and continues to have one of the most developed channels of any vendor. More importantly, the company has pledged a massive commitment to the region, with a range of efforts that have the potential to boost ICT development in the region.

Cisco's promised investments don't just focus on its own business, although increased headcount is a big part, but also include projects to build out the industry across the region through increased ICT training, R&D efforts , venture capital and so on. While Cisco's channel will need to expand to match these plans, and previous investments in Saudi Arabia have yet to be fully realized, Cisco is definitely positioned as the leader in the region.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft is another company with both a strong presence in the region and a strong commitment to investment here. The company continues to grow regional headcount and to work closely with regional government, particularly in the field of education, where it has put over $235 million into the region through its Partners in Learning scheme. According to IDC, Microsoft's partners also make up an ecosystem that is worth more than $7.9 billion to the region.

The uptake of Windows Vista may not be as fast as Redmond would have hoped, its Euopean anti-trust troubles refuse to go away, and the consolidation of hardware and software vendors sees a lot of solution offerings that threaten Microsoft in the enterprise, but Microsoft is not standing still. Its ongoing development of search, and proposed acquisition of Yahoo! looks like a bold move for Web 2.0 strength that could be a game-changer for the online business.

3. HP

HP remains the undisputed leader in the Middle East PC market, and its enterprise level solutions consistently rate highly in analyst surveys. The company has taken a strong step towards building out its services capabilities this year, with the acquisition of Atos Origin, which will give it particular expertise for SAP services and regional presence in the growing markets of Qatar and Libya.

The company did take a step backwards in the region, with the announcement that it has ceased its joint venture to assemble PCs in Saudi Arabia, although its grip on the printer market is relentless.

HP is also expanding its portfolio to target key verticals , positioning itself strongly against other integrated IT vendors, as well as staking a claim to developing areas like virtualization. Another important acquisition was SPI Dynamics, which will help HP's business technology optimization strategy, but as the company extends into new areas, and the enterprise market contracts into a few key players, it is likely to increasingly find itself in competition with companies that it previously partnered with.

4. IBM

IBM is still consistently one of the biggest players in the enterprise sector and has the longest presence of any IT company in the Gulf region. Its huge services presence also ranks it among the more advanced companies in the region in terms of technical expertise. The purchase of business intelligence vendor Cognos allows IBM to add some additional functionalities to its software portfolio. Globally IBM is making more and more interesting moves with open source, but the Gulf's overall lack of interest seems to restrict that activity here,

The company is diversifying its interests in the region with the launch of a nanotechnology centre with KACST in Saudi, but other than that, it has been a long time since Big Blue made a big noise in the Middle East, seeming to prefer to rely on its existing base of enterprise level customers.

5. Oracle

Oracle has carried on spending this year, with three high profile acquisitions adding to the long list of companies that it has already consumed. Hyperion , Agile and BEA all bring something new to the vendor's offerings, and give it more an even greater stake in enterprise software. Another long standing company in the region, Oracle counts some of the biggest names in enterprise in the region, across a highly diverse range of customers, with notable announcements this year in retail, telecom, and

The company's most notable Middle East commitment this year comes in the form of the signing of an MOU with Knowledge Economic City (KEC) in Medina, to help develop and more importantly, to establish and academy to develop the local Oracle talent pool.

6. Sun Microsystems

A rejuvenated Sun Microsystems, under the leadership of CEO Jonathan Schwarz, went from strength to strength in 2007, finally returning to profit during Q2. On a global level, the data centre is once again a big focus for Sun, with a push on both blade servers, a data centre in box and most importantly, the acquisition of MySQL among the highlights. The MySQL deal gives Sun a potentially very strong position as an integrated web platform provider.

Locally the company continues to gain customers in key sectors including energy, retail and finance, and has also made a few expanded its channel and channel support. The company has also set aggressive growth targets for head count for the region for 2008.

7. SAP

SAP made some important moves in the Middle East, and looks set to make more. Already a considerable presence in the high-end enterprise space, SAP AG bought out local subsidiary SAP Arabia, in order to establish its own Middle East subsidiaries to improve its regional activities. While it doesn't have the same level of presence as some of its enterprise software rivals in the region, the company aims to grow headcount, and it already counts many of the biggest enterprises in the region as customers, including new deals with Saudi Airlines and a partnership with the Egyptian government. SAP will need to extend its presence to the mid-market, but it has proven that it is still building its portfolio of solutions, most noticeably with the acquisition of Business Objects.

8. Acer

Acer has made its move for market share this year, and is taking second place slots from Dell in hardware markets around the world, particularly after the acquisition of Gateway gave it vital market share in North America. The company is extending its SMB server range and building its product portfolio , although it remains firmly in the hardware sector.

The company has also manoeuvred a deal to sponsor the Olympics from 2009, taking sponsorship from Lenovo, which will add to existing brand building activities with Ferrari and Yamaha and Inter Milan and Barcelona football teams.

9. Intel

Intel began the year off the back of a difficult 2006 thanks to a highly competitive chip market, and while the market conditions remain the same, the processor giant has made considerable gains this year, most notably with the launch of chips based on its 45nm technology. The company has also piled onto the green bandwagon with pledges on cleaner chips, and although it faces increased scrutiny from the EU and other authorities around the globe with regard to anti-competitiveness, it still maintains its market leadership.

In the Middle East, Intel shows an impressive commitment to CSR in the region, working through a number of programs with government, NGOs and educational institutions to opportunities for learning and economic development.

10. EMC

EMC continues to gain attention as storage becomes an issue for more and more organizations. Already firmly entrenched in high end sectors including telecoms, finance and government, the company is set to take advantage of growing interest in storage virtualization. It's flotation of virtualization division VMware in August got a great deal of attention from investors, including Intel and Cisco. The company has also begun to features from security company RSA, acquired in 2006, into its product line, and is also exploring storage as a service.

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