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Here Comes the Windows Home Server

Microsoft's Windows Home Server technology, set for Microsoft formal release in August, will provide central backup for consumers who have multiple PCs in the home. In addition, developers are gearing up to release Windows Home Server apps that range in functionality from media streaming and entertainment to climate control and home security.

Microsoft, which has a flavor of Windows available for nearly everything in your house except your toaster, now might be targeting kitchen appliances as well with its new Windows Home Server. At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Los Angeles this week, more details have emerged about this new platform.

Originally announced in January, the Windows Home Server was demonstrated on Tuesday by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. He named several hardware companies as partners for the new platform, including Gateway, LaCie, Medion, and Hewlett-Packard.

HP will be releasing its MediaSmart Server by the end of this year, and Medion's Home Server will have storage capacities ranging from 500 GB to 2 TB along with plug-and-play media-streaming technology based on the Digital Living Network Alliance standard.

'A New Category'
The Home Server technology will provide a central and secure backup for consumers who have multiple computers in the home, as well as access to a centralized storehouse of information. Currently in Beta 2, the Home Server is expected to be released by August.

"With Windows Home Server," Gates said in his keynote address at WinHEC, "we're launching a new category of consumer products that will make it much easier for people to connect to their digital content and share experiences with friends and family no matter where they are."

To enable the creation of applications for the platform, Microsoft has made available a new developers kit. A variety of independent software vendors are getting ready to release applications specifically for the Home Server.

If some of the Windows Home Server's developers are successful, the fantasy of every World's Fair -- the widespread adoption of "smart homes" -- might be approaching reality. Embedded Automation's mControl software, for example, will let consumers manage home lighting systems, security cameras, climate control, and audio and visual components. Lagotek similarly has a Home Intelligence Platform so that homes can automatically take care of certain functions.

Digital Storage Box
F-Secure is releasing an antivirus product, Iron Mountain has a data-protection service, and, if you didn't already have enough programming sources at home, both SageTV and PacketVideo will enable media to be streamed from the Home Server to devices all around your house.

But Microsoft's main marketing thrust appears to be that the Home Server will essentially be for storing large amounts of digital data. "It provides a familiar way to store, share, and automatically protect what's important to you -- your digital memories," the company said on its Web site.

"This is going to bring home to the consumer market the importance of backing up," said Samir Bhavnani, research director for Current Analysis West. "People don't realize that hard drives fail." Bhavnani added that the term "Home Server" might scare people, and that a better name might help with Microsoft's marketing.

By Barry Levine, NewsFactor Network
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