These insa-a-ne software prices

Microsoft has recently announced a rebate for the Windows 2000 Server and a bundle of related software that I recommend you look into.

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 $US121 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 $US500 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 estimated retail price of $US1500, an SBS buyer gets the following.

  • The Windows 2000 Server with five client log-ons
  • The Exchange 2000 Server email package
  • The SQL Server 2000 database program
  • ISA Server 2000, a software firewall
  • Fax/modem sharing and other features
  • Licences to install Outlook 2000 on five PCs
The list price for a five-user Windows 2000 Server and this lineup would be over $US5800. 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 $US1000 estimated price 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 $US1000 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 $US800 or even $US600. 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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