You know Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) strengths: It's the digital music and smartphone leader. It has legions of passionate, loyal, and evangelistic consumers / fans. And Apple may be poised to disrupt personal computing (again) with the iPad. Apple's market cap even passed Microsoft this month.

But is someone waiting in the wings to put more money in the pockets of shareholders in the near term than high-flying Apple? Google? Microsoft (again)?

We asked our Motley Fool CAPS community to nominate two technology companies likely to outperform Apple.

And the nominees are …
Our 165,000-member CAPS community views IBM (NYSE: IBM) as a better opportunity among similarly sized companies in the technology sector. CAPS member truthisntstupid makes the case for IBM based on a combination of strong earnings and dividends growth. That's a combination that's music to our ears:

IBM's dividend payout ratio remains an extra-low 21% in spite of its outstanding pace of dividend growth and has both the growth in earnings and the competitive advantages to maintain this trend for many years to come. IBM has also poured a fortune into R&D. Its dividend WILL double in five years or less.

And if you're looking for a tiny cap that could grow up to become the next technology superpower, the CAPS community points us toward Silicom. This company is in the high-end enterprise server market, providing networking solutions designed to increase speed, throughput and reliability of servers and appliances. If the CAPS Community is right, Silicom could grow up to become the next Cisco or Juniper Networks, two technology cousins of Apple we would have loved to have owned in their early days. Community member HermandeB gave a positively glowing outlook for Silicom a while back:

Everything is right with this stock:

  • Strong market growth going into 2010
  • Broad customer base and product range, much recurring revenue ...
  • No debt ...
  • Recently entered Chinese market
  • Wonderful business model

Make your vote count!
Do you agree that IBM and Silicom may be better buys than Apple? Click over to CAPS and let the rest of the community know what you think.

John Keeling doesn't own any of the companies mentioned in this article. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Stock Advisor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.