Apple is the world‘s third most innovative company, according to a new study.

The study, by leading brand firm Cheskin and Fitch:Worldwide, surveyed 500 senior US business. Participants were asked to list three companies they considered the most innovative. Out of 314 companies mentioned, Microsoft was cited most frequently (135 mentions), followed by Dell (47), and Apple (40).

Apple was variously described as “always pushing the envelope”, “constantly reinventing itself”, “redefining the landscape and its leadership in it”, and being “way ahead of the curve”. Apple was also acknowledged for the creativity of its industrial design.

When asked to name the most innovative products or services the iPod scored highly – credited as being better than the competitors by using "existing technology and enhancing with UI and hardware design and telling a simple story to people that want it".

However, Microsoft Windows received the most votes for "constantly improving and setting the stage for which all other software must follow or perish".

The 35-page report is available as a free download from Cheskin and Fitch:Worldwide.