Microsoft Mulls Midmarket

Microsoft Corp. officials are considering developing a new server product targeted at midsize businesses.

Microsoft Corp. officials are considering developing a new server product targeted at midsize businesses, a rapidly growing segment of IT that often must rely on products and technologies designed for much larger organizations.

The new version of Windows under consideration would be a bundle similar to Windows Small Business Server 2003, which includes Windows Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services, Exchange Server 2003 and several other technologies. However, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., is leaving much of the decision about what to include in the bundle up to its customers.

"A lot of this is really about getting feedback from customers and partners and understanding if this is something that would really meet their needs and whether it is a common-denominator-enough solution that is still powerful enough to build a business on," said Steven VanRoekel, director of midmarket solutions in the Windows Server group.

Much of that feedback is likely to come from users of a new Windows Server System promotional package that Microsoft announced at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis last week. The package consists of three Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition licenses, one Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition license and one Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 Workgroup Edition license.

The package also includes 50 new promotional Client Access licenses for Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003 and costs about $6,400, which is 20 percent less than Microsofts suggested retail price for the products.

"We know we need to do a better job to help these companies manage all this," VanRoekel said.

The proposed midsize bundle would be a nice fit for some of Microsofts current customers. Ubiquity Brands Inc., of Chicago, a snack food business, decided to standardize on the Windows Server System to better communicate, collaborate and run the financial aspects of two businesses Ubiquity recently acquired, William Schumacher, Ubiquitys chief operating officer, said.

"Sixteen months ago, our business consisted of five employees working off a POP3 [Post Office Protocol 3] e-mail system. We then acquired two companies and grew to 800 employees, so our needs have quickly become larger and more complex," Schumacher said.

Asked what type of customer support would come with the latest midmarket offering, VanRoekel said customers that do not have any other type of Microsoft support contract would get the base level of support for each product that is offered when it is bought individually.