BusinessWeek's list of the world's 10 most influential companies is out, and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) isn't on it. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is. So is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

Hear that? It's the jeers from the iGallery: "Thanks for playing, Mr. Softy, but everybody hated Vista. You no longer matter." These are the companies that do, says BusinessWeek:

  • Apple
  • Unilever
  • JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)
  • Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)
  • News Corp.  
  • Toyota (NYSE:TM)
  • Saudi Aramco
  • Monsanto
  • Huawei
  • Google

Microsoft is instead crowned a "niche dominator," according to an article sidebar. "Despite years of antitrust battles, the Redmond (Wash.) giant still accounts for about 90% of computer operating systems," the plug reads.

How's that bad, again? Apple's Mac OS X is gaining ground, sure, but when it comes to who rules the PC roost, it's Windows. Maybe that doesn't matter; researcher iSuppli says that PC shipments are expected to rise 4.3% in 2009, down from 13% projected growth for this year.

Equally telling: Those following the Big 3 Techies in our 125,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS database, like BusinessWeek, tend to favor Apple more than either Microsoft or Google:





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Note: Data current as of December 23, 2008.

CAPS investor FoolNewb best explains the bearish sentiment in this pitch from April:

I see no immediate upside for Microsoft outside of game and office software sales. They seem to be in panic mode if you ask me, as evidenced by their recent acquisition attempt of Yahoo. Google dominates search. IE is losing market share to Firefox, Safari, and Opera in the browser world. The Zune which is a nice Mp3 player will never be an iPod. It's that simple.

Fair enough. There's little hope for a Zune Phone, and cloud computing is enough of a threat that Mr. Softy has painted Windows a deep shade of Azure. But can we really say that Microsoft isn't one of the world's most influential? No. Here's why.

Battleground: Your living room
Microsoft is an emerging power in the battle for your entertainment dollars thanks to close ties with Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and its Silverlight technology, which makes streaming more palatable. So much so that many leading content delivery networks have chosen to adopt it for delivering high-definition video over the Web.

You might say that Mr. Softy is embracing Netflix to extend the Xbox 360, transforming it into an all-in-one media hub. Neither the PlayStation nor the Wii have Netflix streaming as a feature, though the PS3 has a Blu-ray player. What do consumers prefer? On Black Friday, it was the Xbox over PS3.

And where's Apple rank when it comes to bigger-screen entertainment? 293rd, if you look at Apple TV's Amazon sales rank in electronics. Yeah, I know -- that's not fair. Apple is making huge strides in mobile entertainment via its App Store and the iPhone and iPod Touch. The battle for your palm is as important as the battle for your living room.

What matters is that neither battle is over. And in the living room, it's Microsoft -- not Apple, not Google -- that's allied with Netflix, arguably the market's most dangerous and best-positioned combatant. How's that for influence, BusinessWeek?

Pretty significant, I think, and I own shares of both Apple and Google. But that's also just one Fool's opinion. What's yours? Would you buy Microsoft at today's prices? Would you short it? Let us know by signing up for CAPS today. It's 100% free to participate.

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