Image: Kindle Fire HD
Reed Saxon  /  AP
Amazon Kindle Vice President Peter Larsen holds the new Kindle Fire HD. The retailer has kept relevant by constantly reinventing and reinvesting.
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updated 9/11/2012 12:13:34 PM ET 2012-09-11T16:13:34

The most innovative companies in America are diverse, hailing from both coasts and leading in industries ranging from open source software to health care. What all 10 share is a desire to keep evolving, often after already setting industry standards. Inside these headquarters, innovation is anything but passive.

Forbes.com slideshow: The 10 most innovative companies in America

No. 1: Salesforce.com
World Rank: 1

Cloud computing king, Salesforce.com tops Forbes list of the most innovative companies in the world for another year, which also makes it the most innovative company in America.   The company maintains its edge by having a clear innovation strategy. Read the complete list to see what CEO Marc Benioff has to say about innovation.

No. 2: Alexion
World Rank: 2

The second most innovative company in America’s anemia drug Soliris will gross $1.1 billion in revenue this year and its shares have outperformed Apple since 2007. For more on Alexion, check out Matthew Herper’s story on how this company innovates.

No. 3: Amazon.com
World Rank: 3

After initial success selling other peoples’ books, this internet retail giant now has more than 20 million products in stock. The third most innovative company in America, does much more than sell other vendors’ wares. Thousands of companies use its cloud computing services and Amazon’s Kindle Fire accounts for 22 percent of the U.S. tablet market.

Amazon has kept relevant by constantly reinventing and reinvesting. It has not paid a single dividend since going public at $18 in 1997.  The original shares have been split three times, resulting in 452.07 million outstanding shares today. The stock is now worth more than $245 per share.

No. 4: Red Hat
World Rank: 4

“We affect everybody’s life everyday,” says Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst. “Whether you are going to take money out of an ATM, to buy an airline ticket or to do a stock trade you don’t see us, but we are in the background doing all that stuff to make that happen.”

Red Hat, produces, curates and manages open source software. Developers from around the world can use and improve the software. Red Hat makes money by making enterprise supported versions of products that do well in open sourcing and helping big business personalize systems. Imagine if the Windows or Mac operating system that runs your laptop was totally customizable.

The idea of transparency and collaboration infuse the entire business. Even its mission statement was a group effort. “Red Hat is innovative in terms of the products that we have because we work with our customers to innovate,” says Whitehurst. “It’s about community powered innovation. It is not us coming up with what technologies large companies need, it’s us working with Google and Amazon and other large companies to help them solve their own problems.” The only publicly traded open source software company, Red Hat passed $1 billion in revenue for the first time last year.

No. 5: Intuitive Surgical
World Rank: 6

Intuitive Surgical has installed 2,341 da Vinci Surgical Systems in hospitals around the world. These ergonomically designed robots have four arms, one is fitted with a high resolution 3D camera and the others hold traditional surgical tools. The camera allows a doctor to watch a high-res live feed of the patient’s insides. As he operates, the doctor’s hand movements are scaled to the instruments so the whole procedure can happen through a 1-2 centimeter incision. The technology minimizes scarring and recovery time.

In July Intuitive Surgical announced $537 million in second quarter earnings, up 26 percent from a year prior. Instrument and accessory sales accounted for 30 percent of earnings.

Rounding out the top 10 innovators in America are: No. 6: Edwards Lifesciences, No. 7: FMC Technologies, No. 8: Cerner, No. 9: Monsanto and No. 10: Perrigo. For more information on these companies, see our gallery of the 10 most innovative companies in America.

Click here for complete coverage of Forbes list of the world’s most innovative companies, including a look at Europe.

More from Forbes.com

© 2012 Forbes.com

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