There will be no price increases (as such) when Microsoft ships its next server OS, Windows Server 2003, on April 24th, but there will be a new budget-priced version of the product aimed squarely at the web server market. Server 2003 Web Edition comes without client access licences, with a 2gig limit on memory, 2-way SMP, and is $399.
It's essentially a stripped-down version of Standard Edition ($999), which comes with 4gig, 4-way SMP and five CALs, and it also comes with some distribution limitations, the import of which are not yet clear. "Windows Server 2003, Web Edition is not available in all channels," says the footnote. "Contact your local System Builder, OEM, or reseller for more information on how to purchase."
Microsoft, as the Netcraft stats show, has not been wildly successful in winning hearts and minds in the web serving community, and has even been losing share over the past couple of months. And given who's been winning, one might almost coin the expression 'nobody ever got fired for setting up a Linux web server.'
The Beast does not give in easily when confronted by failure, so the Web Edition deal is clearly intended as a shot in the arm for Microsoft's faltering web server sales, and thus a pop at Linux. Will it work? Much depends on what the Ts & Cs of sale, which you will shortly be able to glean from your local system builder, etc. The product is certainly badly hobbled as regards scalability and flexibility, but it could be presented as a confortable and understandable addition for small Windows shops setting up a web site, and worried about having to deal with the Unix/Linux Priesthood.
Not all web sites need vastly powerful servers, and Web Edition could quite possibly do the job for quite a lot of small businesses. Sure, if they do grow they might have to tangle with The Priesthood anyway ("strewth, mate - who put this in for you?") but if they're already on a Microsoft web server, even a rather small and crippled one, the chances of their staying in the Microsoft camp will have increased.
Whether the move works or not depends on how Microsoft proposes to sell it, and how hard the company plans to push it. You never know, if pushing a low-priced special version turns out to work, an important truth about selling server software may eventually dawn on Microsoft. Albeit somewhat belatedly. ®