Just who is Microsoft expecting to buy Windows Home Server?
If you were to ask me for list of two words that don't go together, I'm pretty that "home" and "server" would be somewhere on my top 10. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm against the idea of a home server, in fact, given the huge volumes of data home users now seem to have, a home server is a logical idea. Also, for homes that have more than one PC, having a centralized location for backups and having the ability for those backups to be created and updated regularly with little to no user involvement is a very sweet idea. Without a doubt we've entered the era where a home server is a very desirable thing. But ...
For home users, losing data is seen as inevitableIn theory, a home server is a good idea, and in practice it would, without a doubt, be a very useful tool, but the reality is that few people are ever going to get their hands on Windows Home Server. First off, the name is a total turn off. The only thing that your average Joe or Jane Public is going to hear of the name is that pleasant whizzing sound as the terms go flying above them off into oblivion. While the name might (to the initiated) hold more meaning that "Home Basic," "Home Premium" and "Ultimate," to the average user it's nonsense.
But let's put the name on one side for now and consider a more important question - How much value does the average user place on their data? $0.50? $1? $5? $10? $50? $100? $500? $1,000? In my experience home users place a pretty low value on their data, that is, up to the point that it's gone and then that data they couldn't be bothered burning onto a DVD or copying onto a USB flash drive suddenly becomes priceless. My highly unscientific studies suggest that the average home users will spend about $30 protecting their data and they will usually spend this cash on some backup software which they'll use a couple of times (each time storing the backed-up data on the same drive as the original is on) before losing interest in backing up completely. Even people who have already suffered serious data catastophes won't spend much to prevent future data loss. For home users, losing data is seen as inevitable. The idea that home users are going to blow $200 on Windows Home Server or $600+ on a pre-configured OEM solution is crazy. If people really cared that much about their data and were willing to spend the money to look after it, we'd dual-drive PCs, external hard drives and NAS boxes as more of the norm than we do right now. Right now I can think of dozens of small business owners who have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of data not backed up who could benefit from Windows Home Server but who wouldn't dream of spending that kind of money. A serious data crisis would likely put many of these people out of business within a ninety days yet trying to get them to part with $600 for a system to take care of their worries would be near to impossible.
Another way to look at this is by looking at the type of user likely to invest in such a product. If you have two or three PCs at home, spending $600 on a Home Server system is a lot of cash, especially for a system that does nothing but back up data. The kinds of users more likely to spend money on backing up their data (home power users, tech enthusiasts, SOHO, that market) are those with five or more PCs. But these folks are a tough sell because they're more likely to have an effective backup and restore regime already in place. Also, if they have more than 10 PCs, they've already outgrown Windows Home Server.
Windows Home Server also reeks of first edition omissions. The lack of 64-bit OS support if probably the most obvious feature that's lacking (at a time when Microsoft is trying to convince users that 64-bit is the way forward, not supporting it in Home Server is a shot in the foot). Windows Home Server media sharing and streaming is also pretty basic, and I would have liked a centralized way to manage updates and scan for malware. Alas, Windows Home Server feels rushed and incomplete.