General Electric topped the list for the third straight year in a row, followed by San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant Cisco Systems, which moved up from eighth place last year. Microsoft followed in the No. 3 spot, sliding from the No. 2 spot last year. Chipmaking giant Intel scored the fourth spot.
"It's not too surprising that Cisco would come ahead of Microsoft because of all the negative media about Microsoft's trade practices," said James Oberweis, a portfolio manager with the Oberweis Funds.
Cisco's ascendance on the most-admired list marks the second time this year that it has swiped some bragging rights away from Microsoft. In March, the networking company surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable company in the world, with a market value of $555.4 billion, compared with Microsoft's $541.6 billion.
Sony took the sixth slot on the Fortune list, followed by Dell Computer at No. 7 and mobile phone maker Nokia at No. 8.
All told, high-tech companies captured six of the top 10 spots. The remaining four spots went to General Electric, Wal-Mart Stores, Home Depot and Toyota Motor.
"It's pretty much your standard group of pretty successful large-cap growth stocks," said Oberweis. "It's not too surprising to see that many of those names are also some the best performing stocks over the last couple of years."
IBM, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Procter & Gamble and DaimlerChrysler lost their all-star status this year, failing to make the list despite top placement last year.
"There is something new this year in how we perceive companies," Vicki Wright said, global managing director of the Hay Group consultancy, which helped produce the list with Fortune.
"It is the emphasis on how much companies are capable of looking forward. In a year when old-economy companies have not seen their share price perform, those that have managed to weather both the old and new economy storms will flourish," Wright said.