Microsoft Makes Mountain Lion Server Very Attractive By Gouging Small Businesses With Windows Server 2012 Licensing

Microsoft Makes Mountain Lion Server Very Attractive By Gouging Small Businesses With Windows Server 2012 Licensing

Microsoft’s small business server will go up against Mountain Lion Server at 10X the cost and with artificial limits on it.

Now that Microsoft has unveiled the pricing and licensing models for Windows Server 2012, it’s easy to see why Apple’s focus on the small business market has been a genius move. Apple has been positioning its server platform as a small business solution for a while and Mountain Lion Server is the premier example of this focus.

Mountain Lion Server provides all the core needs for a small or mid-size firm – file sharing, email and messaging, shared contacts and calendars, and collaborative tools – for both Mac and Windows users. It also provides Mac deployment and update services as well as Mac and iOS device management capabilities. All of that is insanely affordable at just $31.98 ($19.99 to buy Mountain Lion, if needed, and then $19.99 for Mountain Lion Server).

By contrast, Microsoft’s so-called streamlining licensing for Windows Server 2012 lists a Windows Server Essentials Edition, which is the new equivalent of Windows Small Business Server, as starting at $425 with serious limitations.

While $425 is the starting price for Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition, that pricing has a couple of major and artificial limitations for small businesses. To start with, Microsoft’s server licensing for Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition sets an arbitrary user limit (just 25 users). It comes with no virtualization rights and Microsoft limits the number of processors that can be used in a server.

Microsoft’s own Licensing and Pricing Datasheet (PDF link) lists a single processor and dual processors as being supported on the same page. That seems like a typo as the documentation repeatedly mentions one or two processors as an option – either way that’s pretty limiting to performance.

That’s ten times what it’ll cost you for Mountain Lion Server, which comes with no upper limits related to the hardware on which it can be installed, no limits as to how many users that it can support, and a fairly complete range of features.

Even PC-only shops may get more value out of Mountain Lion Server than they can hope to get from Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition. Not that that’s too surprising – I know of several small businesses and non-profits that have chosen various releases of OS X Server as a solution for their needs even though they didn’t have any Mac clients.

Ultimately, Microsoft makes a big chunk of its money through the overly complex licensing requirements it sets for its enterprise customers. While the company seems destined to always try gouging its small business customers, the truth is that small business is an added bonus to Microsoft and not a core market for its server products.

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  • vmstan

    Really? I wasn’t aware Mountain Lion was going to able to run an Active Directory, Exchange and SQL. Yeah, totally the same thing.

  • g3user1usa

    What’s the matter with you people? Microsoft can only make money by gouging customers for its software. After all, Microsoft is in the software business. As a commenter stated, he’s more than happy to pay whatever Microsoft charges for the right to run those services. Does anyone expect Microsoft to give it away as long as they have faithful customers that need what Microsoft is offering? Apple makes its money from selling hardware so it can practically give OSX Lion Server away.

    Microsoft needs to charge every penny it can get from selling software at this crucial point in time. MS just declared a $6.2 billion write-down for a failed venture. Windows 7 OS isn’t selling as quickly as expected and now MS is desperate to move upgrades to Windows 8 for as cheaply as we’ll ever hope to see. Give Windows a break for charging $425 for Windows Server 2012. They desperately need that money to offset that $6.2 billion mistake.

  • vmstan

    As a commenter stated, he’s more than happy to pay whatever Microsoft charges for the right to run those services.

    I didn’t say I was more than happy. I have little love for Microsoft, but I don’t see Apple invading small businesses to run the types of services required. You just can’t compare the two strictly on price.

    Besides, Small Business Server was a shitty product anyway.

  • laytoncy

    Really? I wasn’t aware Mountain Lion was going to able to run an Active Directory, Exchange and SQL. Yeah, totally the same thing.

    If a company was to switch from MS to Apple what does Apple offer in place of AD, Exchange and SQL?

  • CalebJenkins

    What?! No mention of Microsoft small business options like BizSpark (http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/) and Action Pack(http://www.microsoft.com/oem/en/community/mpn/pages/microsoft_action_pack.aspx) ?!! I’m Shocked!!

    I guess it wouldn’t make sense to point out all of the free and easily accessible programs that Microsoft provides for startups and small business?

    Let’s not convern ourselves with value over cost.. nope note here.

  • Stoffe_C
    Really? I wasn’t aware Mountain Lion was going to able to run an Active Directory, Exchange and SQL. Yeah, totally the same thing.

    If a company was to switch from MS to Apple what does Apple offer in place of AD, Exchange and SQL?

    Agreed, anyone that has some ideas?

  • Jdsonice

    I would support MS a 100% in its endeavor to gauge small business.

  • laytoncy
    Really? I wasn’t aware Mountain Lion was going to able to run an Active Directory, Exchange and SQL. Yeah, totally the same thing.

    If a company was to switch from MS to Apple what does Apple offer in place of AD, Exchange and SQL?

    Agreed, anyone that has some ideas?

    I know there is FileMaker to replace SQL I guess but what about AD or Exchange?

  • jeffythequick

    Server Essentials is for backup of the network and running LOB applications (but not SQL ones, that’s Premium). Luckily, SBS Essentials doesn’t require CALs, which is another headache.

    As other posters on here have mentioned, Exchange (an amazing product) is not on the Essentials, but it is on Standard, which is more expensive, and requires CALs (Client Access Licenses).
    Here’s a comparison to them:
    http://download.microsoft.com/download/4/8/6/486BFC1A-C7E8-4E25-ACD1-F4B3910829F5/Compare%20SBS%202011%20Family%20Features.pdf

    (For those that are wondering what CALs are, when you buy MS Server, you have the right to use that server as it stands, but to access it from another computer, or as a user, you need a CAL, which run about $75 each. There isn’t enough room here to go through the intricacies of CALs, but suffice it to say, you need one to legally access the server from another computer.)

    If you’re adventurous, and you have an afternoon to waste, go to the Microsoft store and figure out what you need for Microsoft SBS, and how to get it:
    http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/en_US/list/categoryID.57613600

    Yeah, I am SBS certified (2003), and I still couldn’t find SBS in there. I could find CALs out the wazoo, but no SBS to buy.

    However, for Lion Server, yep, to purchase it for $40, is for the average user can be a bit penny smart and pound foolish if you don’t have Apple experience, but if you do, it’s a killer deal.

    Having converted my former business server services from Exchange to Apple (server died, and Mrs. thequick didn’t want to buy another one), Exchange to Apple isn’t easy, since Exchange keeps it all (Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and tasks) packaged together, but you can do them separately through those individual services on a Mac.

  • jeffythequick

    @CalebJenkins: I would NEVER EVER recommend the Action Pack for people to run their businesses on (in fact, I was consulting for a business that had 4 subscriptions, and quickly told them they were doing so illegally.)

    The Action Pack is for Microsoft Partners for the intent of selling Microsoft Software, and allows them to use the MS Software essentially, on the cheap. It is not for a cheese maker or sewing shop to run theirs.

    From the link you posted, the first paragraph reads:

    The Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS) provides internal-use, full-version software and sales resources for Registered Members of the Microsoft Partner Network to help you meet your sales goals, stay competitive, and grow your business. ?

    To use the MAPS subscription to run non Microsoft Partner related activities is against the license, and can be considered piracy.

  • bat

    why would i need exchange when i have complete (instant) messaging and calendar service integrated in ML server? and afaik, it has something similar to AD, it’s called profile manager. yeah i know, it’s osx/ios only.
    see full list of features here:
    http://movies.apple.com/media/us/osx/2012/server/docs/OSXServer_Product_Overview.pdf

  • laytoncy

    Server Essentials is for backup of the network and running LOB applications (but not SQL ones, that’s Premium). Luckily, SBS Essentials doesn’t require CALs, which is another headache.

    As other posters on here have mentioned, Exchange (an amazing product) is not on the Essentials, but it is on Standard, which is more expensive, and requires CALs (Client Access Licenses).
    Here’s a comparison to them:
    http://download.microsoft.com/download/4/8/6/486BFC1A-C7E8-4E25-ACD1-F4B3910829F5/Compare%20SBS%202011%20Family%20Features.pdf

    (For those that are wondering what CALs are, when you buy MS Server, you have the right to use that server as it stands, but to access it from another computer, or as a user, you need a CAL, which run about $75 each. There isn’t enough room here to go through the intricacies of CALs, but suffice it to say, you need one to legally access the server from another computer.)

    If you’re adventurous, and you have an afternoon to waste, go to the Microsoft store and figure out what you need for Microsoft SBS, and how to get it:
    http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/en_US/list/categoryID.57613600

    Yeah, I am SBS certified (2003), and I still couldn’t find SBS in there. I could find CALs out the wazoo, but no SBS to buy.

    However, for Lion Server, yep, to purchase it for $40, is for the average user can be a bit penny smart and pound foolish if you don’t have Apple experience, but if you do, it’s a killer deal.

    Having converted my former business server services from Exchange to Apple (server died, and Mrs. thequick didn’t want to buy another one), Exchange to Apple isn’t easy, since Exchange keeps it all (Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and tasks) packaged together, but you can do them separately through those individual services on a Mac.

    Where can one find more information on this? Apple marketed the switch from the desktop like XP to OSX but what about from SBS to OSX Server?

  • RolfRolles

    Am I missing something here? If the Microsoft offering costs $425 for 25 users, and the Mac offering costs $20 + $20*(number of licenses), then Mountain Lion is actually $100 more expensive for the same amount of users?

  • andib

    Oh yes, OutOfOffice replies, Free-Busy lookups, Cross Forest Domains, Cloud accounts joined with on-premises, Dirsyncing LDAP with other companies, Rich coexistence features for companies, Unified messaging with phone-services, Web access to all of this ic. calendar, contact and shrs from others? Man and thats just a tiny bit of SBS 2011. But it’s not that design-click’a’di’click-fancy-colorful-Apple-push-that-button … so it’s not cool, right?

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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