NEW ORLEANS—As Microsoft Corp. prepares to formally release Windows Small Business Server 2003 at its Worldwide Partner Conference here Thursday, the product faces intense competition from Linux as well as growing uncertainty from some partners about their role going forward.
While Microsoft has taken the unusual move of cutting the cost of the product by as much as 60 percent over SBS 2000 for small businesses with less than 25 clients, officials maintain the move is designed to encourage small-business owners to move to a Microsoft server product.
But others say the move is designed to counter the value proposition offered by "free" Linux software. Holger Dyroff, general manager for the Americas at Linux distributor SuSE Linux Inc., in Oakland, Calif., told eWEEK that while Microsofts price-cutting moves have taken away some of Linuxs pricing advantage, the real strength of Linux in the small and midsize business space is that customers can install and maintain it themselves.
"Microsoft sells [customers] a total partner solution where the partner often administers and maintains the server for them. Linux allows them to remotely administer, monitor and fix their server, which is of great benefit to customers," he said.
But Katy Hunter, Microsofts group product manager for Windows Small Business Server, disagreed, telling eWEEK that SBS 2003 has made great strides in that regard as well.
While this is the fourth iteration of Windows SBS, "it is the first time that the core assets of the Windows Server System are built into a single solution offering, and we have redefined the level of integration we provide in the product," she said.
SBS 2003 has made huge advances in the way users can access their data remotely, Eugene Ho, director of development for Windows Small Business Server, told eWEEK.
One requirement for a small-business server is the ability to consolidate and centralize all of a customers data. Many small businesses have data in remote locations, and they want to be able to digitize and secure it and always have it available to them, he said.
Many in the partner base from Great Plains are uncertain and concerned about their role in the new partner programs Microsoft will officially announce this week.
When asked about this, Orlando Ayala, Microsofts senior vice president of the small and midmarket solutions and partner group, admitted that there is some uncertainty and concern among these partners.
"But we cannot make this product a success without them. You can be sure that we understand how partners make money, and we will recognize that and explain our vision fully in New Orleans," he said.
To be known as the Next Generation Partner Program, it will include changes to the way Microsoft divides the special perks between its almost 800,000 resellers, software and consulting allies, Ayala said.
Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.