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Microsoft sets Windows Server pricing

The software powerhouse says the pricing for its upcoming Windows Server 2003 operating system will remain largely unchanged from that of the previous version.

Microsoft this week said pricing for its upcoming Windows Server 2003 operating system will remain largely unchanged from that of the previous version.

The announcement comes as Microsoft puts the finishing touches on Windows Server 2003, set to debut on April 24. The software is an update to earlier Windows 2000 and Windows NT server operating systems.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company had planned to release final test code around March 12, but last-minute tweaking could push back that release by as much as a week, said sources familiar with Microsoft's strategy.

As has been the case with other versions of Windows, PC makers are expected to ship new systems with Windows Server 2003 installed, ahead of the official launch date.

Windows Server 2003 will be available in five versions that are to include updates to existing versions, as well as a new Web Edition. The pricing also reflects changes in how Microsoft licenses the software. Besides the server software, buyers must also purchase client-access licenses, or CALs.

Previously, Microsoft offered CALs on a per-seat basis. But under the new model, the CAL can either be purchased for the computer or person. The per-person model could benefit companies where a person connects to a server using multiple devices, such as a desktop PC, a notebook or a handheld.

Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is priced at $999 for five CALs, or $1,199 for 10 CALs. The Enterprise Edition will sell for $3,999 for 25 CALs. Microsoft would not provide pricing for the Datacenter Edition, as that version of Windows Server 2003 must be purchased with a new computer. The new Web Edition will sell for $399.

Additional CALs will be available for $199 in packs of five, or $799 for 20. Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server CALs will cost $749 for five and $2,669 for 20. Microsoft also requires what is called an external connector for people connecting from outside the network. The cost is $1,999 for Windows Server 2003, and $7,999 for the Terminal Server version.

As Microsoft prepares to sign off on Windows Server 2003, the company is spending more time on other Windows product-development projects. On Friday, an early beta of Windows XP Service Pack 2 leaked onto the Web. Microsoft released the first service pack--a collection of bug fixes and updates--in September.

Service Pack 2, which is slated for midyear release, will add new versions of Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker, among other updates and fixes. But Microsoft does not plan to incorporate into the update its version of the Java Virtual Machine, which the company is phasing out.

The software titan also is shifting its focus to Longhorn, a code name for the successor to Windows XP. Late last week, an early version of Longhorn leaked out onto the Web. The new version showcases new storage and file management features that simplify organizing and finding information.

The user interface also is getting a makeover. Among other changes, Microsoft has added a task pane, or sidebar, that by default adorns about a ruler's width of the right-hand side of the display. Similar task panes, but with different options, are available in Office XP, Office 2003 Beta 2 and MSN 8. By default, the sidebar offers access to preferred programs for quick launch, a slideshow of rotating images and a clock.