As Bill Gates prepares to exit the company he founded, Microsoft finds itself dumped from the US's favourite brands… by, of all, people, Apple! Sony was ranked the best brand in the US for the seventh year in a row, according to Harris Interactive.

The company's latest Harris Poll showed Dell retained its second-place ranking, followed by just two other IT companies, HP in sixth place and Apple, which entered the list in 10th place.

Coca-Cola, which is universally recognised as one of the leading global brands, came in third.

Strong brand recognition has helped Sony, which is in the midst of a turnaround under Howard Stringer, the CEO appointed in the middle of last year. One of the company's latest hits in the US has been its Bravia LCD TVs.

The nationwide Harris Poll surveyed 2,351 US adults, asking them simply to think for a moment and name the three brands they consider the best. The company did not provide a list of choices, it said.

Of the remaining top ten, three were car manufacturers: Toyota, Ford and Honda. The remaining two were conglomerate General Electric and food giant Kraft Foods.

Apple's arrival in the top 10 pushed out two brands: Microsoft and General Motors. Last year the top 10 contained 11 brands, as two tied for the same place.