Microsoft this week released new testing kits based on its Widows Server 2003 platform but targeted more at small businesses than mega corporations.
The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant says its Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 Release Candidate will let companies of about 1,000 employees or less provide security, while setting up software mechanisms for organizing data and communicating over networks.
The company said it will start off the process by shipping 200,000 evaluation kits for testing and evaluation and will kick off a worldwide partner training program. The idea is to help make sure Microsoft's technology providers, who are often the principal IT support for small businesses, are fully prepared to help their small-business customers. The full commercial version of the software is expected to ship in early fall.
One new aspect of Microsoft's latest release is enabling users to access data and applications in both wireline and wireless computing environments. Microsoft also says the new server software package offers 'a 15-minute setup, best practice system configuration, end-to-end data backup process, and out-of-the-box remote-user access.'
The company said its new Windows Server 2003 is designed to work in tandem with its newly released Exchange Server 2003. Microsoft says it wants to give "small businesses important improvements in information worker productivity, increased system reliability, improved security and spam controls."
"Resources like training and sales tools are essential elements in helping our partners grow their businesses," Microsoft vice president of the Worldwide Partner Sales and Marketing Group Allison Watson said in a statement.
There are two versions of Windows Small Business Server 2003. One is "Standard Edition," which is a new version of the software and combines Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003. The "Premium Edition," combines the same software as the "Standard Edition," along with Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server.
Microsoft said much of the particulars of the Release Candidate would be addressed during its Partner Training Program as well as a hands-on lab for its customers.
Pricing at this point is not entirely clear but Microsoft said it expects things close to their current levels. The previous version (SBS 2000) costs roughly $1,500, however many customers get the software for less, through solution provider contracts. Microsoft will likely consider its pricing strategy, because of the growth of less expensive, competitive Linux-based offerings. Novell also has its Small Business Suite, which it markets to the growing small-and mid-sized businesses.
IBM also has no intention of ceding the growing market to sell small business server suite software packages. Just last week, the company said it would be focusing on the global market of businesses with less than 1,000 employees. IBM also said its prices would be 25 percent less than Microsoft's similar offerings.
Adapted from internetnews.com.