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'Global titans': Expansion in China comes first

Dow Jones Indexes finds large firms see Internet technology second only to growth in China when it comes to helping their business.

Big businesses expect big things from the Internet in the near future, according to a new study.

In a survey of major multinational companies, 29 percent of respondents predicted that Internet technology will have the largest positive impact on their business in the next five years. That answer was second only to "growth in China," cited by more than a third of the companies. The research was conducted by Dow Jones Indexes, a wing of publisher Dow Jones & Co.

A set of 50 companies that Dow Jones calls the "global titans" were sent the survey questions. The companies include Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil, Dell, IBM and Intel. Just 18 firms responded to the survey, though, and not all respondents answered all the questions.

Despite the survey's limited reach, its finding about the importance of the Internet dovetails with other signs that companies are putting a priority on technology. For example, information technology services firms have been growing and hiring, thanks to continued interest in outsourcing and businesses finally opening their wallets for long-delayed tech projects.

According to the Dow Jones study, wireless technology, data mining and biotech are the technologies seen as having the biggest impact on respondents' businesses over the next five years. Those three outpolled nanotechnology, materials science and alternative energy.

Asked which assets will be most valuable to the company five years from now, 53 percent of respondents said "products/services." Another 26 percent said "brand/reputation," while "management" and "intellectual property" each were selected by about 10 percent. None of the respondents chose "skilled labor."