This week, in our focus on the winning analysts in each industry category from our

Analyst Rankings -- Equity 2000

survey, we profile the top analysts tracking the application software industry. (For our last focus, on information technology consulting and services, click

here.) Next week, we will digress from our planned tech schedule to look at the top-ranked analysts in the tobacco industry, which has been prominent in the news lately.

Application software stocks have taken a major tumble lately. However, these companies, which develop and produce software designed for specialized applications for the business or consumer market, are benefiting from several important trends. All three of our top-ranked applications software analysts are bullish. They're particularly optimistic about business-to-business names, noting that companies are willing to pay for applications that will improve their relationships with partners and customers and direct their flows of goods more efficiently. Though their favorite stocks vary,

Ariba

(ARBA)

and

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

show up on more than one list.

Application software analysts warn that we are at the beginning of a long cycle of growth in the sector. They expect consolidation -- and casualties -- along the way. Their best advice: Stick with the market leaders.

Click here to see a calendar of the categories we will feature in the weeks ahead.

Click here to see the sector spotlight on information technology consulting and services.

Click here to see the sector spotlight on Internet software and services.

Click here to see the stories in this series that have already appeared on our site.

Application Software

Rate Their Stock Picks:

Which stock do you like best?

Phillips*: Ariba

Gilbert: E.piphany

Sherlund: Amdocs Ltd.

* Gilbert and Sherlund each gave us their top stock pick. Phillips gave us a list of four picks, from which we chose Ariba.

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