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.