Microsoft reveals details of new small-business OS

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday revealed details of the next version of its Windows operating system for small businesses and formally introduced a new product line aimed at small and midsize businesses.

Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008, code-named "Cougar," is one of two software bundles in Microsoft's new Windows Essential Server Solutions line. It also includes Windows Essential Business Server 2008, formerly code-named "Centro" and aimed at midsize companies. Both products are based on the same code as Windows Server 2008, the next version of Microsoft's enterprise server operating system.

The Essential line bundles a server operating system with other software that Microsoft deems necessary to running a business -- such as Microsoft's messaging software, Exchange Server and security products. This approach provides what Microsoft describes as an all-in-one, easy-to-install software stack for companies that may only have a small IT support staff.

SBS 2008 is aimed at companies with up to 50 PCs and includes one-year trial subscriptions to Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server Small Business Edition and Windows Live OneCare for Server.

The software also integrates with Microsoft's Web-based service, Microsoft Office Live Small Business, to help companies set up and manage Web sites and Web-based collaboration workspaces for employees. Support for Windows Mobile devices, so employees can access business information and e-mail remotely, is also bundled in.

Microsoft said it designed SBS 2008 for simplified deployment, setup and administration from one management console that administrators can access remotely. The software also comes in a premium edition for companies that need more heavy lifting from their business software.

SBS 2008 will be demonstrated on Dell Inc. hardware at Microsoft's Feb. 27 event in Los Angeles, in which Microsoft will highlight a triptych of releases -- Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008. Both SBS 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server 2008 are scheduled to be available in the second half of 2008.

Windows Essential Business Server 2008, which Microsoft has previously discussed, is intended to make it simpler for businesses with limited IT management resources to install and control critical software tools. The product is aimed at businesses with 25 to 250 PCs and is currently in beta.

Like SBS 2008, Windows Essential Business Server 2008 (WEBS) also has a single management console for administrators. However, unlike SBS 2008, third parties can integrate their products into the console so their software can be managed from it as well. In fact, Microsoft has already said that Symantec, Citrix, CA, Trend Micro, FullArmor, McAfee and Quest are among the companies that will integrate products with the WEBS software.

"Based on our conversations with customers and partners, we felt the midmarket IT is a much different customer than a small-business owner, so we wanted to respect that in the way we designed the management [user interface] for each product," said Steven VanRoekel, senior director in the server and tools division at Microsoft.

More information about SBS 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server 2008 can be found on Microsoft's Web site.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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