Microsoft's expected to release several new products next year, along with software giants SAP, Oracle, Red Hat and BEA.
Finally, the wait will soon be over when Microsoft ships Windows Vista by the second half of next year. The software giant has promised better security and file management in this new iteration of Windows. The server companion to Vista, however, will only surface in 2007.
Other closely watched products under its wings include the Internet Explorer 7 browser, which sports features such as tabbed browsing and tighter security.
Closely linked to the company's Internet productivity products is Microsoft Exchange 2003. Redmond has indicated that the product will now support both 64-bit processor extensions and the dual-core chips.
Microsoft Office 12 has also been in the works, and is set to make its debut in the second half of 2006. Among the new features is a revamped user interface which does away with the traditional Windows menu system.
For business users, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 marks the company's formal foray into the hosted CRM space. Available to Microsoft's partners in January next year, the product comes in separate versions that target both large enterprises and SMBs.
Smaller businesses may also want to take note of Microsoft's Small Business Server 2003 R3. Available in the second quarter next year, this product combines Microsoft's Windows server operating system with its Exchange e-mail management tool and other server-based software.
BEA is combining its newly acquired Plumtree portal software with its own Weblogic Portal software in a unified product line by the middle of next year. And in the second half of 2006, the company will release a series of products that will allow the use of portal capabilities in a range of Web applications. The products will include a common set of front end-related services, such as collaboration search and analytics.
SAP hosted CRM
The German software giant has indicated its intention to enter the on-demand CRM space, and CEO Henning Kagermann has set the product release to sometime this year. For now, it seems unlikely that SAP would go hosted in time for Christmas--next year would be a better bet.
IBM Workplace Managed Client
Big Blue's next version of office productivity application delivered through a Web browser will support the OpenDocument format for the first time. IBM has set its sight on emerging markets for the product, which IBM says do not live in the legacy of Microsoft Word documents.
Oracle Project Fusion
Oracle's massive task of bringing together the best features in each of its acquired J.D Edwards and PeopleSoft products will make a sneak appearance next year. Project Fusion, the company's next generation applications line, will bear some fruit when components such as data hubs and transactional bases are released next year.
Linux leader Red Hat will be selling subscriptions for three collections of higher-level applications that run Web sites' Java server software. This move is significant, as it will pit the company against SourceLabs, JBoss, IBM and Oracle in the same space for the first time.
Sun makes it free
Look out for more freebies from Sun next year, following its recent bold move to release its Java Enterprise System for free. In the first quarter of 2006 will come identity management, Sun Ray and Tarentella software. The SeeBeyond software is due to be released for free near at the end of the first quarter.