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Small Business Server 2003 Test Version Available

Microsoft has decided to release Windows Small Business Server 2003 in two editions. The decision highlights the increasing segmentation of the Windows server line, which is now up to nine editions – roughly a 50 percent increase from the Windows 2000 generation of servers.

The announcement of the two editions came this week as Microsoft disclosed that the release candidate of Windows Small Business Server 2003 is available. RC is the final testing stage before a Microsoft product is released to manufacturing. The product is scheduled to be completed in September, marking the final major, publicly acknowledged release in the Windows Server 2003 family.

SBS is a simplified version of the server intended for businesses with up to a few dozen workers and no dedicated IT staff. It provides an integrated setup of Windows, office Internet access, Exchange, fax services and other bread-and-butter requirements in small companies.

Counting the two new versions of Small Business Server -- Standard and Premium -- there are now nine editions of Windows Server 2003. The others are Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Enterprise Edition (64-bit), Datacenter Edition, Datacenter Edition (64-bit), Web Edition and Windows Storage Server 2003 (formerly known as Server Appliance Kit 3.0). By comparison, with Windows 2000 there were six editions, counting a limited edition run of Windows 2000 Advanced Server for 64-bit Itanium systems. The other five SKUs were Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, the Server Appliance Kit and Small Business Server.

Harry Brelsford, an author specializing in Windows SBS and the founder of the SMB Nation conference series, says Microsoft’s decision shows that it recognizes that there are two distinct customer segments in the low end of the server market with different needs.

"You'll see the standard SBS version for the customer group I liken to the WalMart crowd who are seeking a low cost comprehensive network infrastructure solution," Brelsford said. "The white collar professional crowd will enjoy the premium edition with increased functionality such as SQL Server."

Windows Small Business Server 2000 came with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server 2000, Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2000 and SQL Server 2000, among fax and other services and an integrated setup. Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition will have 2003 versions of Windows Server and Exchange Server, along with ISA Server, SQL Server 2000 and Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003. The Standard Edition will lack SQL Server, ISA Server and FrontPage.

The Windows 2000 version of Small Business Server retails for $1,500, a price that includes five Client Access Licenses. While Microsoft normally doesn't finalize pricing until a product is released to manufacturing, the company's decisions on other SKUs of Windows Server 2003 suggest the pricing will remain about the same for the Premium Edition, which has a very similar set of components. The Standard Edition should be cheaper since ISA Server and SQL Server have been removed.

Microsoft had immediate plans to distribute 200,000 copies of the SBS Release Candidate. More information is available from Microsoft here.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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