37. Do-It-Themselves Computers
Self-installing, self-configuring, self-healing computers that also offer automatic backup and quick disaster recovery. Anyone who's smashed a keyboard in frustration thinks this is a pipe dream. Or is it? A small company out of Canada, Net Integration Technologies (Nitix), is the only company so far to get this right (secret: It uses Linux). Even IBM, which has a major effort under way to develop these autonomic computers, acknowledges Nitix's achievement. Right now, the firm targets small- and medium-sized businesses. They have the hardest time getting high-quality help, and autonomic computing means they need less expertise to run their IT. As this trend grows, it has major implications for tech firms that rely on complexity to generate ever-larger service fees.
38. Economic Hot Spots: Look Away
Combine security concerns and a government focused on old-economy industries like oil, and the United States has become less attractive to creative workers. Other locales are picking up the slack. Hot ones, according to economist Richard Florida, are Ireland, Sweden, and Finland. Or Wellington, New Zealand, instead of Hollywood. Even Toronto and Calgary if you don't want to go halfway around the world. And watch out for Sydney.
39. Yo Quiero Pollo Campero
For years, planes flying from El Salvador and Nicaragua to the United States had a distinctive aroma: chicken. Flavorful fried chicken from Pollo Campero, to be exact. After selling 3 million takeout orders at its airport restaurants to locals who wanted to bring a taste of home to America, the Guatemalan chain is now rapidly expanding in the United States, in or near Latin communities in Dallas, New York, and Washington, DC. Although plenty of fast-food chains specialize in chicken or Latin-style fare, Pollo Campero (translation: "country-style chicken") has an authenticity that sets it apart. The menu, originally in Spanish, is now bilingual, reflecting that it's not just Hispanics who taste the difference.
40. A Niftier Mitt
Being first isn't nearly as important as cooking up a smarter solution. When silicone arrived on the kitchen supplies scene several years ago, manufacturers raced to produce a variety of utensils using the expensive material, which can withstand temperatures up to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. But some products quickly proved impractical. The whale-shaped all-silicone oven mitt, for example. Cute, but unwieldy. Oxo International tried developing a flexible oven mitt, silicone on one side, cloth on the other. Alas, no one would buy a $40 oven mitt, said Oxo president Alex Lee. When silicone prices fell this year, though, Oxo revived the project. The mitts and potholders go on sale next March. Expect them to catch fire.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.