Apple, Gateway soup up server support programs

Apple Computer and Gateway have altered parts of their server support programs to give customers a little more choice, the companies announced Friday, as they battle to make headway against server industry titans like Dell Computer and Sun Microsystems.

Apple and Gateway took different approaches with their push for better server deals. Apple will kick off a new software subscription service Saturday for its Mac OS X Server operating system, while Gateway has extended the length of time a customer has to return a server.

Apple's new Mac OS X Server subscription service gives users three years of software support, which includes multiple OS upgrades, for the same price that Apple currently charges for a single OS upgrade. Users can pay US$999 for the service for an unlimited number of clients or $499 for a 10-client license, said Brian Croll, senior director of software product marketing at Apple, based in Cupertino, California.

A single upgrade for Mac OS X Server is priced currently at $999 for unlimited clients. The OS is designed to run on Apple's new Xserve rack mount server.

"If you think you will do one upgrade over the next three years, then this deal makes a lot of sense," Croll said. "This gives customers one budget item for the next three years."

Croll said the deal could be attractive to Microsoft Corp. customers who may be confused by its Software Assurance licensing program introduced earlier this year.

Gateway, meanwhile, has started what it calls the industry's first 90-day money-back server guarantee. Under the new offering, Gateway will allow customers to return servers for a full refund after 90 days of working with the system. This extends previous 30-day trial periods, the company said in a statement.

The arrangement includes free on-site maintenance from a Gateway network engineer for 30 days after installation. In addition, users will receive technical support over the phone for 90 days.

Both Apple and Gateway are relatively small players in the server market. Apple's Xserve, which went on sale in May, has attracted attention from users familiar with the Unix and Linux operating systems. Gateway, based in Poway, California, sells a variety of Intel-based servers in both tower and rack configurations.

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