For the third year in a row, Microsoft won the Best Instant Messaging award--but this year, it won with a different product. With 42 percent of readers' votes, MSN Messenger replaced Microsoft Windows Messenger as king of this category. (Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003 came in at third place with 9 percent of the votes. Live Communications Server uses Windows Messenger as a client, so the previous ruler is still around.)

Readers credited MSN Messenger with the same qualities they praised in Windows Messenger, primarily availability and ease of use. MSN Messenger, which is a free download, comes in a variety of versions (e.g., Windows, Macintosh, mobile) to fit your environment and provides support for WebCams, notifications, and some spam-blocking capabilities. An enhanced enterprise version--MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises (MSN Connect)--is also available (at additional cost) and provides control of Instant Messaging (IM) use within a company. Next year's awards will tell if our readers think enterprise control is worth the price.

WINNER! — MSN MESSENGER
Microsoft
425-882-8080
http://messenger.msn.com
2nd Place — AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)
America Online
http://www.aim.com
3rd Place — Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003
Microsoft
http://office.microsoft.com