When Windows Small Business Server 2003 launches next month resellers for the first time will have two flavours to offer customers to meet different needs. However, they may face some sticker shock.

SBS 2003 is Microsoft Corp.’s package of servers aimed at companies with up to 75 PCs and built

around Windows Server 2003. Set to launch at next month’s Microsoft partners conference in New Orleans, it promises a 15-minute installation, an “”out-of-the-box”” Intranet and easier management for companies with few IT skills.

To help spur sales, the base cost of the product has dropped with the creation of a standard edition priced at $899 including Exchange 2003 and five client access licences (CALs).

The premium edition, which adds SQL Server 2000, Internet Security and Acceleration Server, Front Page 2000 and five licences costs $2,209.

However, the price of extra CALs has gone up significantly from SBS 2000. A pack of five licences has increased from $469 to $719, while a 20-pack leaps from $1,539 to $2,859.

“”The reason for the increase is to accommodate the lower price point of the standard edition,”” said Pamela Lautz, Microsoft Canada’s product manager for Small Business Server.

Price may not be a big obstacle for the size of company Microsoft is targeting, says Paul DeGroot, lead analyst for sales and support strategies with Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash.

“”Customers need to do due diligence on this and plug in the appropriate values to see how attractive a solution this is. If you’re a small business of fifteen users SBS is still going to be pretty attractive in spite of the increase.””

Microsoft is also hoping manufactures will see the advantage of bundling SBS with servers, DeGroot said. For example, last week in the U.S. Hewlett-Packard announced ProLiant servers with SBS pre-installed and optimized will be available. However, Lloyd Bryant, vice-president and general manager of HP Canada’s personal systems group said in an interview that no announcement here will be made until SBS ships.

Lautz said the resellers should welcome the two-edition strategy for SBS, noting it will allow partners to go to customers with different offerings to suit needs. For example, smaller firms may not need a database, she said.

VARs will also like features such as SBS 2003’s remote access abilities, which not only allow customers’ staff to access their systems off-site via a browser, but also allow integrators to manage those systems as well.

“”Resellers should recognize the business value this new edition will provide their small business customers including the new pricing advantages, the new accessibility and the ease of use advantages.””

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