Microsoft expands sales channel for home server

Microsoft has signed up more hardware partners, including system builders, to build products that run Windows Home Server.

Microsoft has signed up more vendors to build hardware for its forthcoming Windows Home Server, expanding the sales channel for the company's first server OS aimed at home PC users.

U.S. computer maker Gateway, French external storage maker LaCie Group and German consumer electronics company Medion (whose products are regularly seen in Aldi stores around Australia) will join Hewlett-Packard in building hardware for the OS, and the company also will offer a version of Windows Home Server for custom system builders. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced the news in a keynote Tuesday at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Los Angeles.

Microsoft launched Windows Home Server, which lets home users store digital media, back-up files and set up networks for multiple PCs, in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. At the time Microsoft also introduced HP's MediaSmart Server as the first product that will be available for the OS. Medion also will have a Windows Home Server product before the end of the year, the Medion Home Server storage device, a product it is demonstrating at WinHEC.

Providing software that lets users connect a variety of digital entertainment hardware in their homes, as well as allowing remote access to devices and digital media -- is a major focus for Microsoft, particularly for its Entertainment and Devices division. The company has been open about its plans to compete hard with consumer electronics players in this space, and Windows Home Server is a part of this larger strategy.

Windows Home Server is currently available in a beta version. Microsoft originally said it will sell the OS only through hardware partners, though it suggested recently it may revise that strategy to sell directly to users once HP's MediaSmart Servers ship later this year.

Gates also discussed the potential for third-party software, peripheral and component vendors to build products for Windows Home Server. At WinHEC, Microsoft revealed that several companies are already developing add-on products for the OS. Diskeeper's Diskeeper 2007 software will be available to Server to enhance the speed and reliability of systems running Windows Home Server, while Embedded Automation Inc.'s mControl software can be used with the OS to manage home lighting systems, security cameras, climate control, and audio and visual components.

Other vendors offering products complementary to Windows Home Server are F-Secure, which will have antivirus software for Windows Home Server; Iron Mountain, which will offer data protection services for Windows Home Server; and Riptopia, which will offer a CD Loading Service that will convert and load CDs onto a system.

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