Fool Awards 2007: Most Innovative

If you only care about one award in this year-end awards season, it should be the Fool Award for most innovative company.

After all, the market would never move without innovation, and the greatest creative minds in business tend to power some of the healthiest stock returns, too. Let's have a quick look at the nominees:

1-Year Earnings Growth

TTM R&D Budget

Market Cap

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  )




Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  )




Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK)








Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG  )




Google has gone way beyond a simple search engine. These days, the company is looking into green energy alternatives, new marketing strategies, and every kind of information management you can think of. The big G is hiring all the top-notch engineering talent it can find. You could argue that Google is a big cloud of innovation, just looking for more problems to solve.

Apple is a different beast. Under the singular leadership of CEO Steve Jobs, the company keeps changing how we use technology in our daily lives. Sleek design, user-friendly interfaces, and top-notch engineering defines the Apple portfolio, including such hits as the MacBook Pro and a tantalizing range of iPods. The biggest news out of Cupertino in 2007 is undeniably the iPhone, but don't forget about the years of innovation that led up to that gadget.

All Nintendo has done is redefine the gaming console -- and then some. The groundbreaking Wii controller lends unheard-of levels of realism and involvement to everything from baseball simulations to sword-wielding fantasy adventures. But the innovation goes much deeper than that. Nintendo wants to expand the game market to people who haven't played a lot of games in the past -- girls, grandmothers, and very young children can all appreciate Nintendo's unique game portfolio.

Facebook is the rising star in a very, very hot social-networking market. After opening up its services to all comers and then handing out a programming interface that makes you want to get your friends involved, Facebook is gaining fast on News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) (NYSE: NWS-A  ) MySpace. Mighty Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has invested $240 million in the company, and now we're just waiting for the upstart to go public and show us the money.

Finally, Intuitive Surgical has a patent-protected monopoly on robotic surgery. (You may have seen a DaVinci robot on House.) The device makes invasive surgery safer for the patient. It sounds like science fiction, but after you've seen the benefits of these machines for yourself, you won't want human hands anywhere near your internal organs ever again.

Your turn!
There you have it: five worthy competitors, all clamoring for a place in your heart, and possibly your portfolio, but most of all in your ballot envelope. Cast your vote for the most innovative company in all of Fooldom right here, and don't forget to check out the other award categories as well. We'll publish the results in the days ahead, so come back then and see how your votes changed history.

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