BusinessWeek released the latest update to its annual "Top 100 IT Companies" feature last week, and this Fool saw fit to dig into the charts a little bit to get a feel for what's hot out there.

First, a word about the magazine's methodology: The overall ranking is based on return on equity, shareholder return (presumably over the last year), revenue growth, and total revenues -- with more weight given to the size of the revenue stream. So, we're looking at the best publicly traded technology companies -- the investor return measure disqualifies any privately held businesses -- in the world over the past year, as measured by operational efficiency, stock market returns, explosive growth, and total sales. These are all Foolish measures to go by, and we should meet some familiar faces in this crowd.

The big picture
In the Top 100 list, 45 companies are based right here in the U.S. of A. That's right. According to this analysis, almost half of the world's most impressive information technology businesses are flying a banner with stars and stripes. But interestingly enough, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is the only American representative in the top 10 overall, sitting at No. 4. That's behind Mexican phone company America Movil and relatively obscure Far Eastern gadget makers Hon Hai Precision Industries and High Tech Computer. After Apple, the next seven companies are foreign telecom specialists from around the globe.

Apple itself didn't vault into the top five on the strength of a balanced performance, exactly. It ranked no better than twentieth in most subcategories, but it did excel in one area: growth.

Explosive growth
Only five IT companies in the world grew overall sales faster than Apple last year. High Tech and Hon Hai make encore appearances here, at Nos. 1 and 3, respectively. Wedged in between those two, we find all-American sweetheart Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which reported total 2005 revenues 88% above the year before. That's impressive growth, indeed, but Google ranks no better than fortieth on other criteria and parks at No. 13 overall as the second-highest U.S. scorer.

In all, five of the top 10 companies turn out to have U.S. headquarters when ranked by sales growth. That's a good sign for those among us hunting for Rule Breakers on our home turf, although we'd do well to have a look at the Taiwanese market as well. Eight of the top 20 growers here are American, and seven more are Taiwanese.

Shareholder returns
So, how did the Yanks do when it comes to rewarding us investors for entrusting our hard-earned cash with their stocks? Again, High Tech Computer (which actually makes cell phones, not PCs) tops the list, followed by two more telecoms from Southeast Asia.

But five American stocks make the elite 10 here, too, including SanDisk and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), which both just about doubled your investment in only 12 months' time. That might not hold a candle to High Tech's tripling of its investors' money, but, oh, all right -- I'll settle for 100% returns on my Netflix investment. It's no wonder that this stock is an honorary Rule Breaker.

Return on equity
Now, we're dipping into more value-oriented metrics, as ROE measures the net income that management teams can squeeze out of their net assets. If you're cheering for the home team, this should be a bright spot for you. U.S. companies make up four of the top 5 here, including (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) in the top two spots.

No other specific region, not even the usually high-performing Taiwan, stakes any claim to excellence in this area, so if you're looking for plain old operational excellence, you should be able to leave your passport at home.

Total revenue
That brings us to the final stop of this whirlwind tour of the world's top technology businesses: the ability to sell lots of product. And if you thought the U.S. performance in the ROE category was impressive, you better sit down and have a cool drink of water before reading any further. Especially if you're a fan of massive cash flows.

Ready? OK, here we go.

America rakes in the gold, silver, and bronze here thanks to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and Dell. None of these companies should need any introduction, and if you don't use any of their products yourself, you probably know someone who does. They each brought in over $55 billion of gross revenue last year and are planning on doing it again this year. And they all drop several billion dollars of the incoming cash right on down to free cash flow.

Seven of the 10 largest revenue streams flow into American coffers, and most of the other top dogs are global telecommunications monsters yet again. Toshiba forms the notable exception.

Bringing it all back home
By now, it should be clear that the American market is full of exciting tech opportunities, whether you're looking for impressive growth, tight operations, or massive sales. But it's also rather obvious that it would be a shame to limit your search to inside U.S. borders. It's easy to forget about the amazing investment opportunities that await in markets with which we're less familiar, and it's well worth the time to go exploring a bit. Geographic diversification doesn't have to be a chore.

And looking at the best of the best of American high-tech innovation, it's striking how many of them have made their way into our newsletter portfolios. Netflix, Amazon, and Dell are all Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections, Dell is also an Inside Value pick, and as I mentioned, Netflix does double duty as an unofficial Rule Breakers choice. Our top Fools clearly have their fingers on the pulse of the tech world, and you can sign up for a free 30-day trial to any of our newsletters to get a taste of what they see coming down the pipe.

And don't forget to check out our international report, Around the World in 80 Minutes, if you're interested in diversifying your portfolio on a global scale.

Further Foolishness:

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns a few shares of Netflix but holds no other position in the stocks discussed here. He is a little bummed about only one Swedish stock making the chart, while the soccer team fell out of World Cup contention. Foolish disclosure is always top-notch, no matter how you slice it.