The top four ‘most valuable brands of 2014’ are technology firms, with Google overtaking Apple, according to the ‘Brandz’ league table, compiled by research firm Millward Brown.
Six out of the 10 top brands this year are technology or e-commerce companies, and they were all founded and remain headquartered in the US. Here, we look at the six companies and why they hit the news over recent years.
1. 1st: Google
Google, which came second in 2013, saw its brand value rise by 40 percent. It is valued at $159 billion.
Google.com is the most visited website in the world according to web traffic data company Alexa.
Google has made a number of prominent acquisitions this year, such as artificial intelligence specialists DeepMind and home automation company called Nest Labs.
The company’s ‘Google X’ laboratory has announced a number of prominent tests and innovations recently including Google Glass, driverless cars and Google Contact Lens, a monitoring method for diabetics.
The company is currently overseeing construction of a one million square foot office in Kings Cross, London. The new premises, which are due to open in 2016, will be able to accommodate 4,500 staff.
2. 2nd: Apple
Apple topped the list in 2013, but has since seen its brand value drop by 20 percent. It is currently valued at $148 billion.
Last month the company announced plans to buy headphone and speaker firm Beats Electronics for $3 billion, though it is yet to say how it will be integrated into its existing product portfolio.
Apple launched its latest operating system -iOS8 - last week. The company is expected to release a range of new hardware this year or in 2015, including the iPhone 6, a smart watch dubbed ‘the iWatch’, a second iPad Air and a 5.5 inch iPhone (pictured), similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.
3. 3rd: IBM
IBM came in third for the second year running, despite a decrease in its brand value of four percent since last year. The company is currently worth $107 billion.
In January, IBM said it would invest over $1.2 billion into its data centres and cloud storage business. It plans to build 15 new data centres globally this year, bringing the total number up to 40. The company said it will also spend $1 billion creating a new business unit with 2,000 employees for ‘Watson’, its artificially intelligent computer system.
Watson was originally developed to answer questions on the American quiz show 'Jeopardy!' and in 2011 the system managed to beat former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings (pictured).
The US multinational recently confirmed plans to lay off some of its staff as part of plans to focus on cloud, analytics and cognitive computing. It has yet to confirm numbers but it is rumoured to be up to 25 percent of the hardware division, which would be roughly 15,000 employees.
4. 4th: Microsoft
Microsoft was fourth on the list, up from seventh last year. Its brand value increased by 29 percent since 2013 and it is valued at $90 billion.
CEO Steve Ballmer announced plans to step down in August 2013, with Satya Nadella (pictured) taking over the reins in February this year. Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 and before taking up the post he was executive vice president of the firm’s cloud and enterprise group.
The company is the largest software maker in the world and is best known for its Microsoft Windows operating systems and Microsoft office software.
Notable acquisitions include the purchase of Skype in 2011, its biggest ever acquisition to date at $8.5 billion, and Nokia’s mobile unit, which Microsoft bought for $7 billion in September last year.
5. 8th: AT&T
We skip a few non-tech brands to reach AT&T, which fell to eighth place in the brands list this year, down from sixth despite a brand value increase of three percent. The US telecoms firm is valued at $78 billion.
The company announced plans to expand into Latin America last year, by collaborating with America Movil. Last month, AT&T said it had agreed to purchase DirecTV, a satellite service provider and broadcaster, for approximately $67 billion.
The telco hopes that the deal will help to increase its share in the pay-TV sector and increase its presence in Latin American markets, where DirecTV has 18 million subscribers. The acquisition is subject to approval by various authorities, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is expected to take about 12 months.
6. 10th: Amazon
Rounding off the top 10 was online retailer Amazon, in tenth place up from 14th in 2013. The company, which is valued at $64 billion, saw its brand value increase by 41 percent since last year.
The company is the world’s biggest online retailer and in recent years has moved into consumer electronics, including the Kindle e-book reader and the Kindle Fire, which is the best-selling tablet after Apple’s iPad.
In February this year it emerged that Amazon bought a gaming studio called Double Helix Games and in April the company announced plans to buy comiXology, a service offering digital versions of comics. Financial terms were not disclosed for either deal.
The company was set up by Jeff Bezos (pictured) out of his garage in 1994. Bezos is worth roughly $30 billion and used his personal wealth to buy the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013.
Last year Bezos said that the company is currently testing unmanned drones to deliver goods to customers, although he said that a full launch of the service may be up to five years away.