Microsoft Corp. will on Tuesday announce the release candidate for its Windows Small Business Server 2003, the latest product in the Windows Server 2003 server family headed for release.
Microsoft will also be introducing a new standard version of the product, which will be in addition to the premium version that is similar to the current product in terms of component technologies, Katy Hunter, the group product manager for Microsofts Windows Server division, told eWeek in an interview on Monday.
The premium version will include technologies like SQL Server 2000 and Microsofts Internet, Security and Acceleration Server (ISA), as well as a copy of Front Page.
Microsoft will only announce pricing for the small business server when it releases the product to manufacturing. The final product will ship within three days of the release of Office 2003, which is scheduled for release late this summer.
The Small Business Server release was built as a complete server solution and comes with integrated Exchange 2003 technologies as well as a Windows SharePoint services site that has been expanded into a full intranet solution. “Mainly, with the incorporation of Exchange technologies and Outlook and SharePoint, we have to rely on the Office release schedule, which is what we did,” she said.
Microsoft on Monday also made the Office System Beta 2 technical refresh available to all 600,000 beta 2 testers via download at http://officebeta.microsoft.com/officeupdate.
Users of the Small Business Server who do not immediately upgrade to Office 2003 will not lose many features or functionality in Small Business Server 2003 as there is only an incremental benefit to using Office 2003. “We deliver them the Outlook 2003 client, so from the Exchange solution perspective you are getting the 2003 version,” she said.
The place where users get incremental value with Office 2003 is in the SharePoint scenario. As the product stresses simplicity, Microsoft is hoping that this will be the server release that breaks down the server adoption barriers in small businesses and help drive that adoption. “As such, we decided to introduce the even lower-end standard version of the product.
“There is relatively low server adoption among small businesses, with just 19 percent of U.S. based small businesses using server technology even though 66 percent of them have more than one PC,” Hunter said.
As such, Microsoft had conducted extensive research to see what it would do to break down those barriers. End users wanted to be able to find, share, communicate and access business data. They also wanted exposure to the functionality available to them, she said.
For Microsoft, that meant defining scenarios and really exposing these to end users who were probably not trained. This meant providing an end-to-end solution as well as a lot of step-by-step help for them. Microsoft had also built an end-to-end solution that allowed users to back-up all their data and that addressed the day-to-day availability of their information and provided a solution and help with those system components they also needed to monitor.
More than 500 beta testers have been evaluating the product and providing feedback. But there are also five customers involved in a Joint Development Process around the product. Many Microsoft executives and other company officials are also testing the Small Business Server by running it as their home server.
Microsoft will also now be kicking off a training program around the product for its channel partners, Hunter said.