We ventured forth with some 2004 predictions a few weeks ago, but there is nothing like hearing about the actual plans of real companies. For that we turned to our advisory board, representatives from companies in the Boston area. Here are a few of their comments:\u2022 Budget outlook. Answers ranged from flat to uncertain to growing. One member's company measures the IT budget as a percentage of revenue and the goal is to see the percentage fall from year to year. Because the company is growing his budget is increasing, but as a percentage of revenue it now is down to 1.15%, which is in-line with expectations in his industry.Another member noted that with budgets flat or decreasing, "businesses are getting more aggressive identifying cost reduction opportunities to fund new initiatives." He had to fund the bulk of a business-continuity\/disaster-recovery effort he is heading from savings he could muster.\u2022\u00a0 Linux. There is interest in\u00a0Linux\u00a0but a few board members lamented that it was hard to explore if you don't have the green light to hire more staff. Others said they are still gun-shy, but are starting to experiment. But some are positioning themselves so they can take advantage of Linux in the future (see next item).\u2022\u00a0 Infrastructure. One member said he is counting on\u00a0IBM's\u00a0upgrade of the iSeries to the 64-bit Power 5 processor to serve as the bridge between his legacy environment and the future. Because the box can run OS-400 as well as Unix and Linux, he can migrate his existing applications and develop future\u00a0applications\u00a0in the environment of his choice and have power enough to spare.A related power note: All of the members complained about how new applications (Oracle Financials being one) are resource hogs that require hardware upgrades.\u2022\u00a0 Microsoft. The members voiced a general frustration with\u00a0Microsoft. One member said the company had the chutzpah to do an ROI calculation for XP where the chief benefit was productivity gains from avoiding an hour of Windows 98 downtime per user, per week. His CIO wanted to send Microsoft a bill for all those lost hours. This company has updated some desktops to XP but will run dual images for the next year and a half.Asked if they expected Microsoft's stranglehold to last, reaction was mixed. Some said no one stays in power forever; others said the applications built to Windows will ensure their future for years to come.