Save and Share Everything With Windows Home Server
It's a little early in the product life to declare Windows Home Server a failure or a success yet, but this holiday season is shaping up to be the first real test of its market viability.
Windows Home Sever is an offshoot of the company's enterprise platform for Web and file hosting designed with consumer in mind. Essentially, it's a system that will automatically backup several computers connected to a home network, as well as allow for easy sharing of music, videos, files, and printers -- even from remote locations via the Web. Microsoft's pitch is that the Home Server will have a painless, dummy-proof set-up and interface, and early reviews confirm that this is in fact what Microsoft will provide when the first models show up in time for the holidays.
Hardware vendors have started loading the niche OS on bare-bones PCs with copious amounts of storage to lure in the media hungry masses in this age of P2P file sharing. And just in time for Chrisma-Hanu-Kwaanza, the big guys are unveiling their entries into this market. Even companies whose business is usually storage are trying to get in on the ground floor. Fujitsu-Siemens, Gateway, Iomega, LaCie, Leo Computers, LifeWare, Maxdata, Medion, Tranquil, Velocity Micro, and HP are all launching, or re-launching boxes with the Home Server platform installed. Systems are expected to cost in the $500-$700 range.
The question is whether there is a big enough market for a consumer-oriented server. Setting up a server is a simple enough process that most power users could have one set up in a matter of hours, without shelling out for specialized hardware or software. The average consumer is still intimidated by the idea and skeptical of the need, though anybody who downloads a lot of video and music or uploads their own pictures -- and also lives in a household with other computer users -- could certainly use a home server.
It remains to be seen whether or not Microsoft can do for home servers what the iPod did for digital music players. Unless the company can simplify its story of what a home server actually does and why the average consumer needs it, it may end up achieving a more modest, non-revolutionary success a la Apple TV.
Meanwhile, La Cie just released the much less expensive Ethernet Disk Mini ($200), which is getting rave reviews so far.