In the past, if you wanted to set up a Mac OS X-based server, you bought a separate DVD with an expensive license. In the case of Snow Leopard Server, that license was $499 for an unlimited number of users. Now, it appears that Lion Server is going to be a $49.99 set of apps that you'll purchase through the Mac App Store. This is a bit different from what we heard back in February, when Apple's PR department was touting that Lion Server would be bundled for free with every copy of Lion.
For those who are currently running the latest version of Mac OS X Server 10.6, updating will be as simple as visiting the Mac App Store once Lion ships in July, then clicking a few times to buy, download, and install the new server OS on your Mac. Your Mac must run an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor to run Lion or the server apps, so that old original Core Duo Mac mini won't be able to be upgraded.
What does the server app set add to Lion?
• A Server App for setting up user accounts, creating groups, checking usage, and managing AirPort devices. There's no word on whether that $50 buys you an unlimited license, but that seems likely as Apple hasn't stated otherwise.
• A Profile Manager to set up and remotely manage Lion workstations and iOS devices.
• Wireless File Sharing for iPad
• Push notifications
• Wiki Server 3, iCal Server 3, Mail Server 3
Directory services don't seem to be headlined on the Apple page, but I'm sure we'll see more details as Lion gets even closer to release next month. With Lion Server, Apple is making server software easily accessible for anyone, without the huge licensing fees seen in the Windows world.