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Microsoft lays out midmarket plans

IT administrators for mid-sized companies can look forward to an integrated bundle of server products to be released in the "Longhorn" timeframe.

Microsoft is adding more meat to its midmarket strategy by unveiling plans to offer another bundle of products...

for this underserved segment that will be available just after Longhorn Server ships in 2007.

The company said at its first Business Summit this week it will release a bundle – code named Centro - that includes the next generation of Windows Server, Exchange 12, various security technologies including Internet Security and Acceleration Server, and an as-yet-undetermined product from the System Center Management family of software.

Microsoft released a similar bundle earlier this year that included Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition and Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 Workgroup Edition. The bundle also included 50 client access licenses for Window and Exchange

The difference between the initial bundle and the new one is that the new bundle will offer more integration of the product under one central administration console. With this level of integration, an IT administrator can integrate the user across the entire IT infrastructure, said Russ Madlener, group product manager midsized business solutions at Microsoft.

Microsoft classifies a mid-market customer as one with roughly 25 to 500 personal computers. "The IT pros in these businesses have all the challenges of the enterprise companies but not the resources," Madlener said.

The company is trying to boost its business in a market where IT pros tend to keep older technology for longer than the average enterprise customer. Companies of this size also tend to have fewer IT resources.

"The more they can integrate these products and make it easy, just like they do with the Small Business Server, is good for these administrators," said Bob Gill, chief research officer at TheInfoPro, a New York consulting firm.

Customers of this size also can get the benefits of the advanced technology that they buy but not the scale, so they don't get the same economies as a large company. "Microsoft seems to be trying to bake more efficiency into the product," said Ray Boggs, an analyst at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

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