Awards underscore how IT affects business

There's just no substitute for great technology. Unfortunately, this is a maxim that frequently gets overlooked when it comes time to purchase a product.

There's just no substitute for great technology. Unfortunately, this is a maxim that frequently gets overlooked when it comes time to purchase a product.

As a result, most IT departments find themselves making compromises between the technological strength of a particular solution and the support, services and costs associated with that particular product.

The inevitable end result of this complex dance between the tangible and intangible attributes of a given product is that best technology very rarely becomes the dominant market leader in a given category.

This situation exists because most vendors tend to suffer from delusions born of product hubris. Most vendors tend to assume that because they have the best product in a given category, they can charge more for that product. But in reality they leave the door open for competitors to offer a product that is not quite as good, but for significantly less money.

Vendors with the best product invariably scoff at competitors, but more often than not, customers will settle for the second or even third best-in-class product to gain some perceived savings in cost.

Very often, these customers will incur some expensive, hidden costs associated with that second or third best-of-class product which throws them into fits of hysterics later on, but that's just the nature of the beast. It's just the American technological equivalent of penny wise, pound foolish.

The vendors with the best-in-class products fail to recognise this, so invariably they are left grumbling about the lack of fairness in the market and how nobody really appreciates them.

The truth of the matter is that it's their own dang fault. Very rarely does one single vendor ever manage to effectively combine attractive pricing, superior customer service and technological excellence in one single package.

But it's a focus on technological excellence that brings us to the InfoWorld Technology of the Year Business Impact awards - previously know as the Product of the Year awards.

With many products increasingly becoming commodity implementations of specific technologies, we felt the time had come to change the name and nature of this year's awards to emphasise technologies rather than products.

Chosen by the analysts of the InfoWorld Test Center, we strongly feel that our choices represent a group of offerings that can make a fundamental difference for businesses in terms of what they deliver and what it takes to live with them on an ongoing basis. They may or may not be the market leaders in their class, but they are, we feel, the best of class.

Of course nothing is perfect. You may choose to agree or disagree with the calls made by our analysts. When it comes to choosing real solutions, there are no absolutes. Our mission at InfoWorld is to serve you as a trusted advisor. That means we share the benefits of our knowledge and experience. And that mission should fall short of telling you exactly what to do. Only you know what specific approach best fits your organisational needs. And a lot of the time, that decision is heavily weighted by price, service support, and, more often than not, the available expertise at hand.

That said, however, we would advise you to investigate the choices we've made. From a technology perspective, we believe they represent the best of what the year 2000 had to offer. Now we're already a few weeks into 2001 - which promises to be another exciting year - but most organisations don't tend to acquire brand-new technologies, and most IT departments are just now rolling out the best of what debuted during the year 2000.

So with those thoughts in mind, we here at InfoWorld wish you every success in the months and years to come, and most of all, we thank you for the privilege of becoming a part of your professional lives by allowing us to inform, educate and entertain you. It's a privilege we try to earn each and every day.

Vizard is editor in chief of InfoWorld.

The Top 10 Technologies for 2000

XML (extensible markup language) – reality matches hype for application-linking language

PKI (public key infrastructure) – essential with digital certificates and encryption for securing email and e-commerce

Java – Sun’s programming language suits enterprises’ varied needs

VPNs (virtual private networks) – releasing businesses from the bonds of the wide area network

WAP (wireless application programming) – with wireless markup language WML jump-starting the mobile device revolution for the enterprise

EAI (enterprise application integration) – easing two-way data interchange between discrete applications

Web-based CRM and ERP (customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning) – enterprises are freeing themselves of high back-end costs

Intrusion detection – making the leap from detection to prevention

Application servers – forming the foundation for business on the web

Broadband – fat “pipes” change the way companies can engage with their workers

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