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Microsoft Plays to Small Business

Microsoft this week continues its quest to bring more small business customers into the software fold with its first Small Business Summit, where officials announced options aimed at making it easier for smaller customers to obtain financing.

"The IT needs of small business customers is getting to be more like those for enterprises," says Steven VanRoekel, senior director of Microsoft's Windows Server Solution Group. At the same time, smaller customers need some of the same kinds of hand-holding that bigger businesses get from their dedicated IT staffs. "The goal is to get the right solution for the right job to the right customers."

In that direction, the company also announced that its turnkey point-of-sale system based on Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 is now available from partner Best Buy. Purchasers can get Microsoft Point of Sale either as standalone software or with a Casio touch-optimized hardware package pre-loaded with Microsoft Point of Sale ready for installation. Best Buy is also offering multiple levels of Geek Squad service to support customers during and after installation.

Additionally, Microsoft unveiled SBS 2003 R2, which includes "green check" -- technology to make certain that all systems on the network are up-to-date with all of the latest patches and updates. SBS 2003 R2 will also include increased mailbox size limits -- more than 1GB per user -- and SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition technology will be included in SBS 2003 R2 Premium Edition. R2 is due out in the second quarter, according to company statements.

The new extended financing option lowers the minimum transaction size from its previous $10,000 down to $3,000. Qualifying U.S. customers can receive 36-month loans for complete IT solutions, including hardware and services costs, in addition to Microsoft software. Microsoft is also extending its 90-day deferred payment program and lowering the threshold to qualify to $3,000 from $10,000.

About 400 customers attended the event -- held near Microsoft's campus in Bellevue, Washington -- in person, and about another 12,000 watched the conference's proceedings via Webcasts.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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