Microsoft said it will sell a package of networking software at 20 percent off the regular price to boost upgrade sales to companies with...

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Microsoft said it will sell a package of networking software at 20 percent off the regular price to boost upgrade sales to companies with 50 to 250 workers.

Microsoft is packaging software sold separately into the Windows Server System for midsize companies and cutting the price to $6,400. It includes Windows Server for networks, the Exchange e-mail server and Microsoft Operations Manager to monitor networks, said Steven VanRoekel, a Microsoft director.

Selling software to the world’s 1.2 million midsize companies is a $231 billion industry, Microsoft estimates.

Most of those companies have a small number of employees and budgets to maintain computers and software and find it difficult to set up and combine Microsoft’s various server-software programs, said John Lauer, Microsoft’s vice president for mid-market companies.

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“This makes the daily care and feeding of the whole system” easier and less costly, said Michael Speyer, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

Forrester estimates small and midsize companies will account for 48 percent of the $785 billion spent on software and computers in the United States this year. Spending at those companies is growing 8.1 percent compared with 6 percent at bigger firms. Forrester defines small and medium-size businesses as those with fewer than 1,000 workers.

Microsoft is spending $10 billion over five years to sell more software to smaller companies as total sales growth slows. Microsoft had forecast sales would increase at the slowest rate ever for the year that ended June 30.

With the software, which costs about $8,000 when purchased separately, companies get licenses for 50 workers to use the programs. Additional licenses cost $76 per worker, down from a regular price of $95.

Companies can buy no more than 250 licenses for workers to use the programs.

About half the companies of this size use old programs such as Microsoft’s Windows NT 4.0, which went on sale in 1996, VanRoekel said. Since the April 2003 release of the current version of Windows Server, Microsoft has been trying to get NT 4.0 customers to upgrade. Roughly half of the NT 4.0 users are midsize businesses.

“A lot of them are willing to deal with the pain of using an older program to mitigate the fear they have of moving to something else,” VanRoekel said. “This is an attempt to allay those fears.”

Most of those customers don’t have management software, which helps keep networks running smoothly by warning customers of potential problems and suggesting ways to make the system operate more quickly.