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.

Send tips to Livingston. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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