With the growing reliance on mobility and mobile content, the rapid rise of online and mobile service providers should surprise few.
Companies in ZDNet Asia Top Tech Index's fastest-growing revenue and income lists have in past years included those from the online services and communications segments, and this year saw the inclusion of more such players, as well as the ability of large online companies to maintain their upward trajectories.
The 2006/2007 fastest-growing lists saw a more even distribution of companies from various segments, including open source software players Red Hat and Novell. This year, these were absent and replaced by networking hardware makers such as Huawei Technologies and HTC.
The fastest-growing revenue list was more predictable against the last index, compared to the fastest-growing income list.
With the exclusion of Red Hat, the top five companies on the fastest-growing revenue list were unchanged: Baidu.com, Lenovo, Salesforce.com, Google and Research in Motion.
The rest on 2006/2007 list--SingTel, Infor Global Solutions, Yahoo and Juniper Networks--failed to make this year's list, and were replaced by HTC, Huawei Technologies, Blue Coat Systems, AT&T and Akamai Technologies.
The fastest-growing income list was more fluid. Apple, Baidu.com and Google were the only ones which remained on this year's list.
Network security firm, SonicWall, topped the fastest-growing income list with a 733.31 percent average income growth over the last four years.
Web content delivery accelerator, Akamai Technologies also made its debut on both lists, while fellow Internet companies Baidu.com, Salesforce.com and Google stayed on. China's Baidu.com, which topped the revenue-growth list chalked up an average 154.23 percent year-on-year revenue growth, over four years.
Notably absent from the list was troubled Yahoo, which made the list in the previous two indexes. Its four-year average revenue growth dropped from 79.18 percent last year to 25.92 percent this year, as it tackled dipping share prices and had to put up a number of cost-cutting measures in recent months.
Cloud players surge forward
Lee Kwok Cheong, CEO of the Singapore Institute Management, said the numbers of content players dominating the lists signal a shift of growth from the enterprise space to the social space. The companies registering such income and revenue growth were not the software giants such as Microsoft, Oracle or SAP, said Lee, who was one of the advisors for this year's Index.
"The theme here is consumer and community. This will likely accelerate in 2009 as traditional businesses and more IT 'natives' set up their own enterprises and communities [online]," he said.
Fellow Top Tech advisor, Harish Shetty, vice president of IT at HDFC Bank in India, said the online model will continue to have the "upper hand" in targeting a large and widespread customer base, compared to traditional companies.
"It means dot-coms and communications companies with the right business models will continue to survive and thrive," said Shetty.
Companies offering content or applications online have been enjoying heightened attention. The industry hype around cloud computing has shed light on companies such as Salesforce.com, which offers a customer relationship management tool via the Internet.
And behind the cloud movement are companies helping to push content and applications faster online, such as Akamai. During the China Olympics this year, Akamai and competitor Limelight, helped stream live video to millions over the world.
Economic crisis to shake up market
Shetty does not see this year's list of fastest-growing companies as a signal of a greater industry trend. "I think the reason the companies have not changed much from two years ago is that no major innovation has taken place, nor has there been any major introduction of disruptive technologies or business models.
"[The industry] has only been adding incremental changes in products and business models, which is easy for the competition to replicate," he said.
Shetty expects the current economic crisis to trigger new innovation in the market. "The current meltdown will force companies to innovate and introduce new technology," he noted.
On Baidu.com, which was at the top of both fastest-revenue growing lists in this index and the last, Shetty said it remains to be seen how the Chinese company will do in two years. "I do not think Baidu is not untouchable. Let us wait two years and see how it continues to grow," he said.
Top 10 fastest-growing companies
Here are the companies that scored highest in their ability to grow revenues and net income, alongside the corresponding average year-on-year growth rate over a period of four years.