Nine excellent products are competing for this year's Outstanding Product of the Year award. Between them they have given channel players the opportunity to deliver something new and valuable to all their customers.
This year the winner will be decided, for the first time, by the readers of CRN and the wider channel community. While only one product can win, there is no question that they have all contributed a great deal to the market.
Those in the OEM and system builder markets will have more experience of the two processor contenders from Intel and AMD. Since both 64-bit computing and mobility are red-hot topics, either one of these could have a chance of winning.
Indeed, mobility is well represented in the short list. Both Hewlett Packard and Acer are contending, and many resellers and retailers have come into contact with their products.
Another trend that is well represented is wireless networking, with both D-Link and Bluesocket in the running. The continuing growth in popularity of appliance devices is reflected once again by the inclusion of NetScreen's 5GT.
The appearance of the Smart Board SB-560 on the short list also highlights the tremendous boost that we've seen in audiovisual sales over the past year, particularly in the public sector.
In addition, we have Microsoft Windows Server 2003, with its additional collaboration and communications features that embrace many of the latest trends and provide a foundation for the deployment of web services.
Remember, it's up to you to decide who will win.
AMD Opteron 64-bit processor
AMD launched the 64-bit Opteron for servers and workstations in April. Based on the vendor's eighth-generation processor core, the Opteron enables 32-bit applications to be run on the 64-bit platform, and is being used both for high-performance servers and workstation solutions.
Key features of the Opteron are an integrated memory controller, which reduces memory bottlenecks, and AMD's HyperTransport technology, which increases overall performance by removing or reducing I/O bottlenecks, increasing bandwidth and reducing latency.
The Opteron is also being used by the games industry to develop more powerful and appealing software. John Croft, chief executive of Home Media Networks, believes it should win the Outstanding Product of the Year award.
"We constantly need more processing power to make full use of our software and AMD64 technology allows us to take another step forward. AMD continues to have a significant presence in the home-user market," he said.
Intel Centrino processor
Launched in March, the Centrino has probably become Intel's best-known processor after the Pentium.
Combining the Pentium M processor, the Intel 855 Chipset Family and the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 Network Connection, the Centrino has been designed to extend battery life, and to allow for thinner and lighter notebook designs and outstanding mobile performance.
Key features of the processor include: Micro-Ops Fusion, which combines two micro-operations into one, enabling it to execute faster and at lower power; Advanced Branch Prediction for reduced latency and power saving; and the Dedicated Stack Manager, which reduces the overall number of micro-operations required, generating higher performance at lower power.
Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Windows Server 2003 provides much-improved implementation and administration tools that were already present in Windows Server 2000. This has turned the product into a major upgrade opportunity for resellers.
When Server 2003 was launched earlier this year, Mark Tennant, Windows Server product marketing manager, told UK partners: "If you are using Windows Server today you will see that there is not a whole heap of new features but that what you have now works a lot better and is a lot easier to use."
The product also has the .Net framework embedded and improved collaboration tools, including SharePoint Services, Real-Time Communications for Instant Messenger and Rights Manager.
Security is a major feature. Support for industry standards such as Kerebos and public key infrastructure has been added, as well as for authentication such as smart cards and biometrics. Microsoft has also locked the operating system down much more.
Acer Travelmate 800 Series (Intel Centrino and Pentium M)
The Acer TravelMate 800 series has been designed for professional users from very small to very large companies.
The TravelMate can replace desktops because it is a high-performance notebook based on an advanced concept of modularity and featuring outstanding security systems, good connection flexibility and high build quality.
Equipped with an impressive array of mobility and wireless features, the TravelMate 800 is one of the most comprehensive laptop systems on the market.
D-Link DSL-604+ wireless modem router
D-Link's wireless modem routers combine Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line broadband wireless area network connection with IP routing, transparent bridging and internet gateway functions, all in one compact box.
They are ideal for small offices or home use, or for connecting branch offices to the internet.
The router has Network Address Translation and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocols built in, enabling an entire office or group of users to share a single broadband line and ISP account.
The device automatically assigns an IP address for your office users, while masking these addresses from others on the internet, making life harder for any would-be hackers.
With built-in 10/100Mbps switch ports, connecting workstations and servers is easy. The IEEE 802.3x Flow Control feature enables servers to connect to the switch ports directly for fast data transfer.
At 200Mbps full duplex, these ports provide high-speed data pipes to servers with minimum data transfer loss.
Smart Board SB-560
One of this year's best-selling whiteboards, the SB-560 has a great set of features and offers excellent all-round value. It comes with the very usable Pen Tray feature, which enables users to work very naturally at the whiteboard to take notes and highlight important information.
The touch-sensitive surface reliably converts hand contact into mouse movement and clicks or electronic ink.
The SB-560 comes with the Smart Notebook application, which saves notes users have written on the board and offers a number of additional capturing and editing features.
HP/Compaq Tablet PC TC1000
One of the first and unquestionably one of the best Tablet PC formats to hit the market, the TC1000 is an ultra-thin light machine with a battery life of up to five hours and integrated 802.11b wireless technology.
It has all the usual combination Tablet PC features, including the intelligent notepad function, and with the inclusion of the nVidia controller, has great graphics.
Bluesocket WG-2100 wireless gateway
Bluesocket's interoperable wireless gateway is used for managing and securing wireless local area networks.
The gateway is designed to provide a secure mobile environment, Bluesocket's patent-pending technology that enables wireless users to maintain a secure connection as they move across subnets.
Designed for small and medium-sized installations, the WG-2100 can support entire office floors of more than 100 users at 150Mbps encrypted and 400Mbps unencrypted.
The high throughput is achieved by using hardware-based encryption acceleration. It is one reason why the Bluesocket wireless range has become so popular in such a short time.
The NetScreen-5GT is designed to be a cost-effective network security solution for remote offices, retail outlets and telecommuters.
Offering one Untrust and four Trust 10/100 Ethernet ports, it uses the same firewall, virtual private network (VPN) and DOS mitigation technology as NetScreen's high-end central site products.
It is designed to be upgradeable and to support embedded virus scanning using Trend Micro anti-virus technology.
There is a 10-user version and a Plus version that offers unrestricted users and support for OSPF, BGP, dual-Untrust and dial back-up.
The NetScreen-5GT provides up to 75Mbps performance for the firewall and 20Mbps of hardware-accelerated 3DES VPN throughput, with support for 2,000 concurrent sessions and 10 VPN tunnels.
This product has some firm supporters, and Neil Ledger, founder and director of equIP Technology, is among them. He said: "NetScreen-5GT's combination of a firewall/VPN with anti-virus capability fills a gap in the SME marketplace.
It is a good example of what can be achieved when two leading vendors work together to create a solution that caters for current market requirements."
Cast your vote now
The Channel Awards voting pages are now open and will remain so until 23 October. You can cast your vote here. Voting is verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
Channel Awards voting short list 2003
Corporate Vendor Partner
SME Vendor Partner
BT Indirect Channels
Specialist Vendor Partner
Parity ICT IT Partnerships
Corporate Distribution Partner
SME Distribution Partner
Specialist Distribution Partner
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