Windows Home Server edges toward final release

Windows Home Server is available in its first release candidate on its way to final release later this year

Microsoft's first server OS aimed at helping Windows users organise and share files on a home network is nearly ready for prime time. The company is releasing Windows Home Server Release Candidate 1 (RC1) to early adopters this week in anticipation of the product's final release later this year.

There are two ways for users to get the software. Developers can sign up for the Windows Home Server Code2Fame Challenge, a contest Microsoft has set up to encourage them to build new applications and add-on technology to the OS. Developers are eligible to win up to US$50,000 worth of cash and prizes, according to Microsoft.

For users who just want to experiment with the new OS, they can get RC1 by participating in a survey, after which they will be permitted to download the software.

Microsoft unveiled Windows Home Server, formerly known by the code name Quattro, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The software is aimed specifically at letting home Windows PC users share and store multimedia and other files, as well as install security to protect files on a home network.

Initially Windows Home Server will be distributed through hardware vendors only, though Microsoft is mulling selling it out of the box as well. Hewlett-Packard was the first hardware vendor to sign on to distribute the OS on its MediaSmart Servers, which will be available before the end of the year. The vendor was later joined by U.S. computer maker Gateway, French external storage maker LaCie Group and German consumer electronics company Medion, which also will build hardware for Windows Home Server. Microsoft also will offer a version of the OS for custom system builders.

Windows users said they are curious about the forthcoming OS, but are in no hurry to rush out and purchase a new home server unless it would solve a specific need they have.

Windows XP user Matt Villano said he is interested in setting up a home network once he completes an upcoming move to a new residence in the San Francisco Bay area, and is considering Windows Home Server to help him do that.

Villano, who works from home, said there are limitations to his current IT workflow, ones setting up a network would solve. "Right now when I print, I have to shut down, undock from my station, dock at [my wife's] and start up again," he said. "A home network would eliminate that."

Villano said that Windows Home Server is only one option he is mulling to set up his network, but likes the idea of using the product to manage multimedia files as well as perform everyday tasks. However, he said he would need to read about and evaluate Windows Home Server carefully before making any final purchasing decisions.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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