Microsoft is pushing hard to achieve early adoption of the Advanced Server version of Windows XP. A pre-release version of the product will go on sale imminently, under the tag Advanced Server LE (Limited Edition); buyers will get full support on the product until 90 days after RTM, plus a free upgrade to the shipping version at RTM.
As yet Microsoft seems not to have publicised the move widely, but documentation available at TechEd Europe in Barcelona this week makes it clear it's happening. LE is based on build 2505 of XP (the Release Candidate 1 Microsoft shipped last week). Initially we got the impression that it would be available in both 32 and 64 bit versions, but as we understand it now LE will be for 64 bit only.
It'll only go out through OEM channels, and will be bundled with 25 CALs. Other terms, conditions and specifications (eight CPUs etc) seem to be the standard Advanced Server ones. It's been clear for some time that Microsoft desperately wants to usher customers upscale to the Advanced server version of XP, Windows 2002 or Windows.NET Server (or whatever it's called this week).
Earlier this year the company floated packaging changes which essentially would have forced many businesses to move up to Advanced Server, but after a serious outcry it backed down. So the "early experience" approach can be seen as plan B, the carrot rather than the stick. Getting it into the hands of customers now, with lots of handholding as the beta programme rolls on, will certainly give the company a healthy run-up, given that the finished product won't actually be shipping until early next year. ®
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