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High-tech winners and losers of 2003

Wireless LAN technology was a sure-fire winner in 2003, but which other technologies made the grade? Which ones didn't? Check out our list.

What's the best thing you can say about 2003? At least it wasn't 2002. Or 2001. Or 2000. Nevertheless, the year had its fair share of newsmakers -- some winners, some losers and some who were a blend of both. Here's a look at our list. We're a "glass is half full" kinda operation, so we'll start with those who'll wake up on New Year's morning smelling the sweetest. -- TechTarget Editorial Staff

The Winners

SAP AG -- Its sales and stock price are outpacing the competition, thanks in part to confusion over Oracle Corp.'s contentious takeover attempt of PeopleSoft Inc. The U.S. division of the German giant is led by Bill McDermott, a former sales ace at rival Siebel Systems Inc., and he's widely considered a CEO to watch. McDermott is helping to make SAP America look like a calm port in the ongoing storm.

Microsoft -- Microsoft makes a good punching bag, but the company deserves its due. This year it pushed a huge amount of software through the pipeline. We saw the debut of Microsoft CRM and new versions of Windows Server, Exchange Server, Storage Server, Office, and Systems Management Server. It was also a big year for major beta releases, including the next-generation SQL Server and the next-generation Visual Studio. Now comes the hard part: Will customers upgrade anytime soon?

Enterprise Linux -- Open source software is hitting its stride. This year saw big investments from mainstream companies. Novell Inc. bought desktop software company Ximian and announced it would purchase SuSE Linux AG. And IBM invested $10 million in Novell, which should help Novell as it becomes the world's largest Linux distributor. The final version of Linux 2.6, the newest kernel, won't debut before year's end, but it's already getting rave reviews.

Craig Conway -- The PeopleSoft president and CEO pulled off the J.D. Edwards & Co. acquisition, bolstering two holes in his company's software strategy and creating the world's second-largest enterprise applications software company. Plus, PeopleSoft's stock price is trading significantly higher than Oracle's $19.50 per share takeover offer, making it unlikely that investors will back the bid, regardless of what regulators say.

Corporate instant messaging -- IBM Lotus is no longer the only game in town. Several providers, notably Microsoft, have joined the fray. Plus, two third-party IM vendors, IMlogic Inc. and FaceTime Communications Inc., are scoring big with added archiving and management tools.

On-demand -- It sounds like a catch phrase, but IBM says it's the future. Big Blue has invested millions to deliver this utility-like approach to computing, and it is the umbrella under which IBM's overall business strategy resides. Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc. and others are incorporating their versions of on-demand into their own products.

Wireless LAN -- With stronger security measures in place, wireless LANs in the enterprise should finally start to multiply. This year, the Wi-Fi Alliance began certifying products with a new, more secure standard known as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). Next year, a new wireless standard, 802.11i, will be ratified. The 802.11i set of standards not only includes WPA, but is also expected to up the ante with a new encryption algorithm, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). -- It latched on early to what's becoming a hot market: hosted CRM software. now has more than 8,000 customers, and the company says that it's profitable. Look for an IPO from this San Francisco-based company sometime in 2004.

Voice over Internet Protocol -- This is the year that VoIP finally broke through. In the first quarter of 2003, the number of VoIP lines topped 1 million for the first time, and by the third quarter, there were 1.5 million VoIP lines, according to Dell'Oro Group. Better technology is available to monitor VoIP networks for latency, jitter and packet loss. One possible cloud: Could future FCC regulations put the party on hold?

MCI -- Few companies had a worse 2002 than the telecom giant. There were the accounting scandals and the executive departures. And then there was the shame of having the largest bankruptcy in history. But under the helm of CEO Michael Capellas, the company is making a comeback, focusing on IP-backbone and network-centric services. Like it or not, MCI is a survivor.

The Losers

Larry Ellison -- As the always-understated Oracle CEO tries to acquire rival PeopleSoft, he is apparently doing everything he can to make his competitors look good. SAP says it is benefiting from the confusion. PeopleSoft says it is being bullied. Department of Justice investigators are poring over internal Oracle e-mail that some say reveals an Ellison plot to rule over all that is application software. Unethical? Maybe. Illegal? The DOJ will decide. Bad public relations? You bet.

Sobig, Slammer, Blaster -- Sure, we know that open source software can be vulnerable, but the Windows platform sure caught some nasty bugs in 2003. Viruses and worms caught IT administrators flat-footed, right about the time that Microsoft was touting its "Trustworthy Computing" initiative.

U.S. workers -- American workers are losing their jobs to downsizing and offshore outsourcing. While no one really knows the long-term effect of this tech brain drain, companies are certainly losing some of their knowledge base. Indeed, the American Electronics Association came out with a depressing statistic this fall, estimating that 540,000 high-tech jobs were lost in 2002.

Trustworthy Computing -- In 2002, Microsoft told us how it halted software development for two months so it could spend time scrubbing away the bugs in Windows. Windows Server 2003 was supposed to be the first software platform to benefit from the improved security measures. But Windows continues to be vulnerable, and the patches are still coming. What's Microsoft's latest security strategy? Placing a price on the heads of malicious hackers.

Domino -- IBM Lotus pledges to support the messaging and development platform for "at least the next decade," but as it focuses more on its J2EE-based WorkPlace line, the writing may be on the wall.

Corporate inboxes -- Our inboxes are flooded with spam, and IT admins are struggling to keep up with exploding message loads. Antispam vendors are the only ones enjoying all those Viagra pitches.

Tom Siebel -- The founder and chief executive of Siebel Systems once proclaimed that hosted software is dead. This year he ate his words when his company re-entered the hosted market. Stay tuned, though. His about-face may benefit Siebel and land him on next year's winners list.

Darl McBride -- Penguin lovers would have you believe that the SCO Group CEO is leading a one-company mission to destroy Linux. McBride wants to collect billions in intellectual property damages from IBM and the open source community, a journey that could leave the Linux kernel in shambles.

VeriSign Inc. -- The company that runs the main Internet root servers didn't think anyone would mind when it started a service that redirected users who mistyped URLs to one of its own sites. Yet many, including the Internet's governing body, ICANN, certainly did care. ICANN thrashed VeriSign for abusing its control of .com and .net domain names.

Marketers -- Loopholes and court challenges aside, the national "do not call" registry is a hit with consumers who just want to eat dinner in peace. Antispam legislation breezed through Congress and should unclog inboxes a bit. Marketers might call 2003 their annus horribilis.


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