Late yesterday, Microsoft announced the release of Windows Small Business Server 2003 Release Candidate 1 (RC1), a near-final version of Windows Server 2003 that's targeted to small businesses. Small Business Server 2003 enhances the features customers have always enjoyed, such as easy-to-use and attractive administrative consoles and simple end-user access points, and adds several new features geared toward remote administration and users, backup, and other functionality users have requested. This release also adds some exciting new changes: Microsoft will offer the suite in two versions--one that includes Microsoft SQL Server and one that doesn't, and for the first time the product will be available to customers preinstalled on low-end server hardware from major PC makers.
   "We looked very carefully at the needs of small-business customers and their technology providers when we designed this release of Windows Small Business Server 2003," said Bill Veghte, corporate vice president of the Windows Server Group. "Windows Small Business Server 2003 delivers unprecedented innovations in simplicity, resulting in a new solution that uniquely enables a broader population of small businesses to more quickly realize returns on their IT investment while providing new opportunities for channel partners to profitably service an even larger spectrum of small-business customers."
   In a briefing with Microsoft late last week, I got an overview of Small Business Server 2003's new features and the two new product versions. Small Business Server 2003 Standard Edition includes Windows 2003 (which is basically the equivalent of Windows 2003 Standard Edition), Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2003, Windows SharePoint Services, Small Business Server 2003-specific components, and five Client Access Licenses (CALs). Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition includes all the features and capabilities in the standard edition and adds Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000, SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3), and Microsoft FrontPage 2003. Splitting the product into two editions makes sense; most small businesses will want file and print sharing and email, for example, but can make do without the database.
   The improvements to Small Business Server 2003 are almost too numerous to mention, so visit the SuperSite for Windows, where I'll post exhaustive preview of the product sometime this week that will detail all the new features and functionality. In addition, I'll post a full review of Small Business Server 2003, specifically concentrating on the OEM preinstall scenario, later this summer.