Forbes' 'Most Inspiring Companies' list: Microsoft is number 1, Apple drops to 12th

Daniel Bean
Assistant Editor
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates speaks during Microsoft's annual shareholder meeting at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington in this November 15, 2011 file photo. Three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft Corp are lobbying the board to press for Bill Gates to step down as chairman of the software company he co-founded 38 years ago, according to people familiar with matter. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)

Who's the most inspirational company in the world? According to a new survey sponsored by Forbes, it might be the company that gave us Windows, Clippy and Word.

Microsoft topped a Forbes list of "Most Inspiring Companies" this year, defeating last year's number one, Apple, which fell to 12th, and Google, which took the number seven spot.

“There is clearly an emphasis within Microsoft to give back,” Terry Barber, chief inspiration officer for Performance Inspired, told Forbes. That might have to do with its famously philanthropic cofounder Bill Gates: “In speaking with their employees, Bill Gates is often quoted saying, ‘we have been given much and therefore much is expected of us.’ What is impressive is that it is not just the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation worthy of this reputation. The company has donated to over 31,000 nonprofits since 1983 and raised over $1 billion through employee giving."

Performance Inspired surveyed almost 5,000 people to find its winner. Each respondent was asked which five companies he or she found most inspirational and why. The survey also asked respondents to describe recent encounters with each company.

Microsoft was number five on Forbes' list last year and number three in 2011.

Apple, who was number one in 2011 and 2012, dropped out of the top 10 this year. Last year, Performance Inspired said Apple had "become a part of the consumer’s personal identity."

“Consumers wrote comments such as: ‘Apple makes me feel more creative,’ and ‘Apple makes me feel entrepreneurial,’" Barber told Forbes in 2012. "People were also inspired by the company’s ability to continue to innovate even without Steve Jobs at the helm.”

Though number four in 2012, Forbes still lists Google among the top as the seventh most inspiring company, citing a fond public regard for the way the search giant treats its employees: providing free meals and entertainment to workers and encouraging staff to spend 10% of their time on creative projects unrelated to their daily jobs.

Other "good guy" companies on the 2013 Most Inspiring Companies list are Target, Tom's Shoes, Disney, Amazon, Starbucks and Whole Foods. Head over to Forbes to see the full rankings.