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Microsoft eases e-mail licensing

Companies will not have to pay as much to keep their e-mail-addicted employees happy under new licensing terms established by the software maker for the next version of Exchange.

Companies will not have to pay as much to keep their e-mail-addicted employees happy under new licensing terms established by Microsoft for the next version of Exchange.

Under the new terms, companies will pay a single fee for each person who accesses Exchange information, regardless of how many devices they use to do so. In the past, customers paid for each person and, if they used more than one device extensively, for each additional device as well.

The per-person fee of $67 is on top of a fee for each server on which Exchange is running. Microsoft charges $699 per server for the standard edition and $3,999 for the enterprise edition, which is aimed at companies with more than 5,000 employees. The per-person and per-device license fee is $67. Those fees remain consistent with the current edition of the software, Exchange 2000.

"We recognize the tough economic conditions right now, and we really want to help the customers get more out of their software," said Exchange product manager Missy Stern.

In addition to the per-person license, Microsoft is allowing companies to pay $67 per device, an approach that could be popular on a factory floor where a number of workers might share a single PC. Another new option, known as "external connector," allows a company to have an unlimited number of nonemployees--folks such as suppliers and retirees--connect to their exchange servers for a single fee of $50,000.

"We wanted to give customers more flexible ways to license the product," Stern said. "They'll really be able to license it according to how they do business."

The pricing details come as Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on its Exchange 2003, which is slated to be released to manufacturing on Monday, meaning that the company has finalized the software code. Microsoft said that the software will be made available first to customers with enterprise agreements, with broader availability later this year.

The summer release was expected.

Among the changes in the new version are features that allow workers with a handheld device or cell phone to access information directly from a Microsoft Exchange server. In the past, such access was provided through a separate mobile server product.