It must be a new Windows line because I've never heard of it before.
As momentum grows around its new Windows Home Server line, which is due for release towards the end of this year, Microsoft is looking to keep the love flowing with its hardware partners, software developers and end users alike.
Joel Sider, Senior Program Manager for Windows Home Server, told APC that the company intends to release a software development kit (SDK) for the platform early next month.
While already available to OEMs such as HP, which was the first to sign up to produce a Windows Home Server system, making the SDK available to all third-party developers should result in a wide range of add-on programs ranging from free utilities to commercial applications.
"One of the exciting things about home server is that it's Windows Server, it's an application platform, so we're expecting to see a lot of third-party applications" says Sider. "When we release the SDK and post the documentation on MSDN we'll be giving developers the means to start building Windows Home Server applications.
"This could include centralised family schedule management, or maybe some syncing capabilities so as you record your favourite TV shows on your media centre they're automatically going onto Home Server in a very easy hands-off way. You could also think about webcams and security applications".
As with Windows Server itself, Microsoft's focus would remain on adding "features and core functionality to the home server itself" says Sider, although he suggested that it would make sense for the platform to "work with the Live services we already have out there, (we could) make it really easy to take your content from Home Server and post to a blog".
HP is already developing a photo sharing application along similar lines for its Windows Home Server-powered Media Smart server. "Microsoft has done a lot of great work around storage elements and remote access but Windows Home Server is also a platform that people can buy software for to expand its functionality" says Josh Peterson, Product Manager at HP's Personal Storage Business group.
HP's MediaSmart home server: will include software to create and serve a password-protected online photo album to family and friends"We're writing a home server program which lets you create an online photo album, select the photos to publish and then serve up Web pages of photos, straight from the MediaSmart server, to family and friends. They get an email with a secure link to that album and they can browse and save photos and also order their own prints using SnapFish".
Sider says that Microsoft is also looking into a future role for Windows Home Server in home automation.
"We've had some people looking at the home builder shows and home builder software developers, and as that industry progresses towards more centralised home automation we're thinking about how home server can manage your lighting, your air conditioning and so on."
At this stage HP remains the only hardware manufacturer to have publicly announced products for Windows Home Server.
However, Taiwanese ODMs (Original Design Manufacturers) Quanta and Inventec have both demonstrated reference designs --Invertec's prototype is housed in a stylishly sculptured white mini-tower, while Quanta opted for the chassis of a conventional small form factor PC.
Sider suggests that several top-tier players are waiting in the wings. "There are no names I can reveal today but those you would guess are probably on the shortlist" -- a comment APC takes to mean established consumer PC companies already active in the small business server space, such as Acer and Dell.
Sider also indicated to APC that Microsoft was leaning towards making Windows Home Server available to end-users who want to build their own server, either from scratch or using an old desktop PC. This would be a welcome change from the earlier plans to restrict the code to Microsoft's home server hardware partners.
"There's no absolute final confirmation on that" cautions Sider, "but it's fair to say that we think it's the right approach to make it available to that enthusiast audience, to the do-it-yourselfers, so we're just fine-tuning that decision and working out how to do that, and hopefully we'll have confirmation on that soon."
While Windows Home Server has already hit Beta 2, Sider flagged that there'd "certainly be at least one more test version, either a beta or a release candidate. That test version will be even more publicly available and widely distributed (than the current Beta 2 edition), and then we'll RTM".