Microsoft is preparing to ship the second release candidate of its forthcoming Windows .Net Server 2003 operating system.
It also announced changes to its enterprise licensing plans that should offer customers more flexibility when they purchase the operating system.
Windows .Net Server 2003 is due for general availability in April, at which time it will begin offering new pricing options for some customers, said Bob O'Brien, group product manager with Microsoft's .Net servers group.
Release Candidate 2 of the server operating system will be posted on Microsoft's Web site later this week, he said.
Among the licensing changes, Microsoft is implementing an option for customers to purchase CALs, or Client Access Licences, on a per-user basis. Currently, customers purchase a CAL for each device that is used to connect to the server. O'Brien said customers will be able to choose either option or purchase a mix of both.
Some customers could save on licensing fees under this new pricing option, according to Microsoft. Users who connect to a Windows server with a variety of computing devices, such as a workstation, a laptop and a PDA (personal digital assistant), currently are required to own a CAL for each individual device. That same person could purchase just one CAL under the new plan, and still access the server on more than one device.
"If you think about the whole .Net vision, it's about anywhere, anytime access," O'Brien said. "We wanted to have user rights that encourage that computing model. It's really focused on the mobile worker."
For customers that have multiple users sharing a single desktop, the per-device licence would be the less expensive option, O'Brien said.
A second change comes with the introduction of a licensing option called External Connector, which will allow companies to let its customers and business partners access its servers via the Internet or an extranet without purchasing individual CALs for those users. The External Connector option will replace a similar option called Internet Connector, which allowed customers to access the server without a CAL but required business partners to purchase individual CALs.
Finally, Microsoft is altering the entire licensing strategy behind a technology known as Terminal Services. That technology allows a user with a so-called thin client to access desktop applications running on a server.
Microsoft is renaming that technology Terminal Server and will require that its customers purchase a CAL for each device that accesses Terminal Server. Previously, a Terminal Services CAL for one device was free with the purchase of a Windows desktop operating system licence.
Final pricing for these licensing options with the release of Windows .Net Server 2003 have not been disclosed.