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MINNEAPOLIS — To Microsoft, the small/mid-size business (SMB) segment is no longer a single entity.

Here at the company’s annual worldwide partner conference this week, Microsoft is planning to announce new programs aimed at what its officials now claim are two very different and distinct types of businesses.

Microsoft is now targeting mid-size customers with one set of products and programs, and small businesses with another. At the same time, the company is pushing its own and its reseller partners’ sales forces to tailor their proudcts and pitches to specific vertical markets.

Microsoft is planning to unveil a new version of Windows Server, currently known as Windows Midmarket Server, that is designed expressly for mid-market customers. That product is not expected to debut for another year or two, however. And Microsoft is not making that announcement at the partner conference, officials said.

But Microsoft is taking a first step toward such an offering on Thursday, when it will unveil a new Windows Server bundle specifically tailored for mid-size customers. (Microsoft identifies “mid-size customers” as those with more than 25 but fewer than 500 PCs connected to the Internet.)

The new Windows Server System offering for mid-size users is comprised of three Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition SKUs (due to be replaced by three Windows Server 2003 R2 SKUs, once that product ships later this year); one Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition SKU; and one Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Workgroup Edition SKU.

Is this the old Microsoft BackOffice bundle revisited?

Although the new bundle does not include Systems Management Server and Host Integration Server, as most mid-size businesses do not require these kinds of products, it is similar to BackOffice in that it pulls together “core infrastructure” said Steven VanRoekel, director of mid-market solutions with the Windows Server group.

“This is a combination that is the least-common denominator for these kinds of busineses,” VanRoekel said.

The mid-size bundle will be available as of next month. In addition to the aforementioned products, it also will include 50 new combination promotional Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003.

Microsoft also is making available several new resources aimed specifically at mid-size customers. These include:

  • Midsized Business IT Center, a new Web site that will provide Microsoft-specific technical information and resources to IT professionals and consultants working with mid-sized businesses;
  • Windows Server System Deployment Guide for Midsized Businesses, a book from Microsoft Press, that will provide prescriptive guidance for mid-size businesses looking to deploy Windows-Server-specific technologies;
  • Microsoft Security Assessment Tool (MSAT), which is designed to help customers with fewer than 1,000 employees assess security vulnerabilities within their IT environment.

    Click here to read the rest of this story on Microsoft Watch.