Microsoft, IBM ramp up SMB battle

SAN FRANCISCO (10/10/2003) - Microsoft Corp. accelerated its push into the SMB (small to midsize business) market at its annual partner conference last week by launching two updated versions of its SBS (Small Business Server).

Both the Standard and Premium Editions of the SBS integrate Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003. The Premium Edition, however, includes BizTalk Partner Edition.

The new BizTalk product, which costs US$999 as a standalone offering, is intended to serve as a lower-end complement to Exchange, SQL Server, and ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) servers stitched inside the Premium Edition of SBS.

Two weeks ago, IBM Corp. escalated the SMB war with Microsoft by announcing the expansion of its ISV Advantage program, targeting key markets such as retail, financial services, and manufacturing.

Although each side appears ready to take out its respective weapons to win the SMB war, some point out that upon closer inspection, the two sides are avoiding head-to-head combat by focusing on core specialties.

"IBM's SMB strategy is really a (midsize business) strategy," said Ray Boggs, an analyst at IDC. "They are not focusing on the smaller folks like Microsoft is. But since (Microsoft's) acquisition of Great Plains, it has certainly kicked up the competition between the two. It didn't take IBM long to figure out Microsoft was going after the market where their money is."

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