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Window Manager
Brian Livingston
These insa-a-ne prices

TELEVISION VIEWERS in the New York area were bombarded in the 1980s with ads for a discount electronics chain known as Crazy Eddie's. After unveiling the latest specials, the store's madcap pitchman, actor Jerry Carroll, ended every ad with the manic tagline, "His prices are insa-a-ne!"

The deals were actually pretty good, but more than the prices were a little nutty. Eddie Antar, the company's CEO, was convicted of securities fraud, ordered to repay investors $121 million, and sentenced to eight years in prison. (Released from prison in 1999, Antar and his relatives are trying to revive the brand.)

Microsoft has recently announced a rebate for the Windows 2000 Server and a bundle of related software that is equally "insa-a-ne." And fortunately, I don't see signs that any Microsoft executives are going to jail, so this is one discount that I recommend you look into. The rebate offers resellers of Microsoft's Small Business Server 2000 up to $500 in cash back. Despite its name, SBS isn't a different platform. It's good ol' Windows 2000 Server packaged with several applications. For an ERP (estimated retail price) of $1,499, an SBS buyer gets the following.

The Windows 2000 Server with five client log-ons

The Exchange 2000 Server e-mail package

The SQL Server 2000 database program

ISA Server 2000, a software firewall

Fax/modem sharing and other features

Licenses to install Outlook 2000 on five PCs

The list price for a five-user Windows 2000 Server and this lineup would be over $5,800. Buying SBS, of course, tends to lock you into using Microsoft software instead of other alternatives. But if you've already decided, SBS costs less than the $999 ERP of Windows 2000 Server combined with any one of the programs listed above.

SBS isn't for large enterprises because it scales only to a maximum of 50 log-ons and doesn't play well with multiple Windows 2000 Server domains. But if you run a small business that plans to become a Fortune 500 company, SBS easily upgrades to the full-meal deal.

Microsoft stresses that its rebate isn't a price cut. It's a refund for consulting provided to customers by resellers. But in reality, resellers may now cut SBS to $999 or less to stimulate sales.

Those other alternatives I mentioned earlier include open source. When I asked about this, Katy Hunter, a Microsoft group product manager of small to midsize business, replied, "It's largely Linux when we look at our competition in the small-business space."

The software giant wants to convert consultants from Linux to Windows badly enough that a source within Microsoft says the company debated (and is still considering) SBS price points as low as $799 or even $599. Hunter disavows this, saying, "We think the current price is an awesome value."

Next week I'll examine our server future.




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Click here for all of Brian Livingston's past columns.
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