2003 Readers' Choice Awards: The winners are in

Find out what more than 1,000 readers selected as their favorite solutions, tools, and companies

Seventeen years of Readers' Choice Awards have brought 17 years of surprises and many close contests -- but none as close as this year's horse race between Microsoft and Apple for Favorite Vendor. In the end, the two giants tied statistically, but Microsoft edged ahead with just three votes. The final tally: Microsoft won 16.2 percent of readers' hearts and Apple had the support of 15.9 percent. Favorite Vendor wasn't the only contest too close to call if the results were rounded to the nearest whole number -- Best Application Server, Best Enterprise Storage Product, and Best Networking Product were also neck and neck until the bitter end. So we decided to publish the ballot results to the tenth of a percent, ensuring that readers' true choices were maintained in the final results.

More than 1,000 InfoWorldreaders voted, weighing in with resounding support for Microsoft, which earned three more categories to call its own, as well as admiration for Apple, the 2003 ballot's upstart. Just as open source is making solid inroads in the enterprise, open source products made a strong showing, taking two categories and earning runner-up status in three others. Not so startling is readers' disgust with spam, this year's Worst Disaster, not to mention anti-spam software, which was named Biggest Hype. Despite strong applause for some, this year saw no single vendor overwhelmingly sweep the Readers' Choice Awards. (See the 2003 InfoWorld Readers' Choice Awards Special Reportfor complete results.)

Bouncing back from its dismal showing in last year's awards, Microsoft took more categories than any other vendor. "It has been an exciting year for Microsoft operating systems and development environments. The rest leaves me cold," says Samuel L. Matzen, director of software development at SLM Software in Wichita, Kan.

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Other readers must agree. Exchange Server 2003won Best Collaboration Product with 31.1 percent of the vote; 40.9 percent of readers named Office 2003Best Enterprise Application; and Windows Server 2003edged out Red Hat Linux 8.0 for Best Operating System with 28.9 percent of the vote.

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Other readers must agree. Exchange Server 2003 won Best Collaboration Product with 31.1 percent of the vote; 40.9 percent of readers named Office 2003 Best Enterprise Application; and Windows Server 2003 edged out Red Hat Linux 8.0 for Best Operating System with 28.9 percent of the vote.

Handing Apple two big wins, readers also responded enthusiastically to the vendor's push for the enterprise. "Apple Computer is on their way up in the enterprise with solid products and solid values," says Matt Beals, prepress manager at PaizoPublishing in Bellevue, Wash.Mac OS X 10.2easily snared Best Productwith 34 percent of the vote, and the iPodswept the Best Gadgetcategory with 40 percent of the vote.

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Handing Apple two big wins, readers also responded enthusiastically to the vendor's push for the enterprise. "Apple Computer is on their way up in the enterprise with solid products and solid values," says Matt Beals , prepress manager at Paizo Publishing in Bellevue, Wash. Mac OS X 10.2 easily snared Best Product with 34 percent of the vote, and the iPod swept the Best Gadget category with 40 percent of the vote.

Open source software also won two categories -- Apache Jakartaas Best Application Server, nudging Microsoft Windows Server 2003 out of the top spot with just six votes, and Apache Axisas Best Web Services Product with 30.1 percent of the vote -- and with three second-place finishes, the darling of enterprise networking is putting the heat on big-name vendors. Axis also won 19.2 percent of the Best Product vote; 23.7 percent of the Best Database votes went to MySQL4.0; and Red Hat earned 27.2 percent of the Best OS vote. "Linux is becoming better-known as a great operating system than as a free operating system. It adds much needed competition to the software industry," says Mike Millson, Web systems engineer at Merit Online Systems in Atlanta.

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Open source software also won two categories -- Apache Jakarta as Best Application Server, nudging Microsoft Windows Server 2003 out of the top spot with just six votes, and Apache Axis as Best Web Services Product with 30.1 percent of the vote -- and with three second-place finishes, the darling of enterprise networking is putting the heat on big-name vendors. Axis also won 19.2 percent of the Best Product vote; 23.7 percent of the Best Database votes went to MySQL 4.0 ; and Red Hat earned 27.2 percent of the Best OS vote. "Linux is becoming better-known as a great operating system than as a free operating system. It adds much needed competition to the software industry," says Mike Millson , Web systems engineer at Merit Online Systems in Atlanta.

Open source software also won two categories -- Apache Jakartaas Best Application Server, nudging Microsoft Windows Server 2003 out of the top spot with just six votes, and Apache Axisas Best Web Services Product with 30.1 percent of the vote -- and with three second-place finishes, the darling of enterprise networking is putting the heat on big-name vendors. Axis also won 19.2 percent of the Best Product vote; 23.7 percent of the Best Database votes went to MySQL4.0; and Red Hat earned 27.2 percent of the Best OS vote. "Linux is becoming better-known as a great operating system than as a free operating system. It adds much needed competition to the software industry," says Mike Millson, Web systems engineer at Merit Online Systems in Atlanta.

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Open source software also won two categories -- Apache Jakarta as Best Application Server, nudging Microsoft Windows Server 2003 out of the top spot with just six votes, and Apache Axis as Best Web Services Product with 30.1 percent of the vote -- and with three second-place finishes, the darling of enterprise networking is putting the heat on big-name vendors. Axis also won 19.2 percent of the Best Product vote; 23.7 percent of the Best Database votes went to MySQL 4.0 ; and Red Hat earned 27.2 percent of the Best OS vote. "Linux is becoming better-known as a great operating system than as a free operating system. It adds much needed competition to the software industry," says Mike Millson , Web systems engineer at Merit Online Systems in Atlanta.
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If there's one thing that hasn't changed in the 17 years we've been publishing the Readers' Choice Awards, it's the challenge to give as many readers access to the ballot as possible while keeping the voting honest. To keep ballot-box stuffing to a minimum, we e-mailed the ballot URL to registered InfoWorldsubscribers as well as to online readers who requested the ballot from a business address. For the second year, we administered the ballot through online service SurveyMonkey.com, which tracks IP addresses in an effort to limit voting to one ballot per reader. It may not be perfect system (yes, we realize that a hypermotivatedreader could clear his or her cookies and vote again), but it did let us make one important catch: vendor votes.

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Wearing our private-investigator hats, we looked up every single IP address associated with each anonymous ballot and uncovered -- and expunged -- more than 530 votes from vendors attempting to sway the results in their favor. The most egregious offender was Oracle, whose employees voted more than 250 times from mail servers around the world. Also, AMD employees chimed in almost 100 times. These vendors' employees were not singled out -- we deleted ballots that came in from any vendor's mail servers as well as those from PR firms that represent vendors. As much as we appreciate loyalty from employees and their enthusiasm for their companies' products, we want the Readers' Choice Awards to reflect the real-world experiences end-users and chief technologists have had with the enterprise products released in the past year.
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Wearing our private-investigator hats, we looked up every single IP address associated with each anonymous ballot and uncovered -- and expunged -- more than 530 votes from vendors attempting to sway the results in their favor. The most egregious offender was Oracle, whose employees voted more than 250 times from mail servers around the world. Also, AMD employees chimed in almost 100 times. These vendors' employees were not singled out -- we deleted ballots that came in from any vendor's mail servers as well as those from PR firms that represent vendors. As much as we appreciate loyalty from employees and their enthusiasm for their companies' products, we want the Readers' Choice Awards to reflect the real-world experiences end-users and chief technologists have had with the enterprise products released in the past year.
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To compile this year's ballot, we took another look at all of the new products we've covered since last year's Readers' Choice Awards and, based on the InfoWorld Test Center analysts' recommendations, chose as candidates the products that achieved the highest scores in our reviews and impressed us as being the strongest and most innovative. If a worthy enterprise product seems missing from this ballot, it is likely because the application or hardware wasn't launched -- either as a full or point release -- since May 2002. Readers cast 1,010 votes total, but weren't required to weigh in on each category.  

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