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The Best Products of 2003

As the CRN Test Center got set to pick the 10 most innovative products released in 2003 that could provide the greatest opportunities for solution providers, the prevailing feeling was that despite ongoing economic pressure, 2003 was a year of considerable innovation in nearly every area of the IT industry. For many vendors, those very economic pressures drove the push toward innovation, while for others, true innovation grew out of the needs of end users and solution providers.

For security vendors, innovation came in the form of an all-consuming arms race as they tried feverishly to outpace, or at least keep up with, the world's hackers, crackers and spammers while also squeezing the bottom line to keep security affordable.

2003 was the first year that notebooks outsold desktops, and with it, the world of notebooks diversified as the units became customized to specific uses, with wider screens, lighter weights, wireless connectivity and a plethora of options. The year also saw the notebook space invaded by a number of different Tablet PCs, which were quickly gobbled up by niche markets but had little noticeable impact on the mainstream mobile knowledge worker.

For software-focused solution providers and ISVs, improvements to IDEs in 2003 significantly eased Java programming. Development software vendors also charged ahead with major improvements in documentation and training and by adhering to common standards.

For display vendors, reduced prices made flat panels widely affordable, but that coupled with tremendous competition required them to differentiate their offerings with unique features while striving to usurp the all-too-ubiquitous CRT from the corporate desktop. In the wireless arena, higher security, faster speeds and lower costs made the technology more mainstream, leading to advances in notebooks, PDAs, access points and hot spots.

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