If you're interested in programming as means to win cash and prizes, here's a quick guide to how (or where) best to spend your precious coding time based on currently in-progress contests. (Note that these are ordered by deadline and today's your last day for the Virtual Earth prize):
|MSN Virtual Earth Competition||$1000||Oct 14, 2005|
|NewsGator API Developer Competition||Dell Latitude D610 or Apple Powerbook G4 laptop||Nov 11, 2005|
|Amazon.com's AWS Developer Contest||$5,000||Dec 31, 2005|
|MSN Messenger World's Best App Contest||Alienware Area 51m 7700 Mobile Desktop||Dec 31, 2005|
Can't say that the evaluation criteria varies widely as they're all looking for something to show-off their respective APIs: creativity, usability, and utility. Amazon adds 'Commercial Appeal: the consumer or business value represented in the application'.
Life is short, code wisely.