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Gates Details Industry Support for Home Server, Unveils System Builder Edition

Bill Gates unveiled a system builder-focused version of the forthcoming Windows Home Server and detailed industry support for WHS.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Tuesday unveiled a system builder-focused version of the forthcoming Windows Home Server and detailed industry support for WHS, which is Microsoft's first consumer-oriented server software for personal multimedia storage.

Slated for release later this year, WHS is designed to give home users centralized data storage and network security and enable remote access and next-generation home entertainment scenarios. While completely consumer-focused, the product has some appeal for home offices and offices too small for Small Business Server. WHS will support up to 10 users and a guest account. Gates made the WHS announcements and demonstrated the product during his keynote at Microsoft's WinHEC show in Los Angeles.

Earlier discussions of the product centered on OEM-only scenarios, where WHS would be sold as part of a complete hardware/software system by companies like HP, an early supporter. Last month, Microsoft hinted in an official blog that distribution might be expanded, and Gates on Tuesday unveiled the version for the system builder channel. The system builder category consists of tens of thousands of mostly small partner companies who put Microsoft software on PCs and servers, commonly whiteboxes.

"Using this version of the software, system builders worldwide will have the resources and flexibility to provide customized, targeted Windows Home Server products to meet the needs of a wide array of customer segments," the company said in an announcement accompanying Gates' keynote.

Gates also announced several new OEM partners for WHS alongside HP. New products are on the way from Gateway; LaCie, a maker of consumer external storage solutions; and Medion, which will release a device code-named "Medion Home Server." HP's product, called HP MediaSmart Server, is planned for this year.

Things are beginning to firm up on the software side, as well, where Gates shared new support commitments by eight ISVs. The tools required to secure, back up and optimize any operating system are beginning to emerge, with plans to support Home Server by Diskeeper Corp. for its defragmentation software, F-Secure Corp. for anti-virus and other security functions and Iron Mountain for data protection services.

What makes Home Server interesting is on the application side, and here, too, Gates had a lineup of ISVs with products in the works for WHS for home automation (Embedded Automation Inc. and Lagotek Corp.), media streaming (PacketVideo Corp., SageTV and HP) and conversion of music CDs (Riptopia).

Microsoft has also announced a contest for developers to come up with new add-ins and/or hardware for WHS. The program is called the Windows Home Server Code2Fame Challenge and will end later this year with cash prizes for the winners.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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