Microsoft released for download on April 26 a public beta of the Windows Home Server 'Vail' release.
In January, a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Vail leaked to the Web. According to the description of that download, Vail, the next version of WHS built upon "both on-premises and cloud technologies" for home and SOHO (small office/home office) users.
Today, Microsoft officials shared some high-level overview information about the Vail release, but very few specifics.
Officials did confirm that Vail will be a 64-bit product only, according to a blog post on the Windows Home Server blog. Company officials said to expect Vail to include improvements "in four key areas," including the extension of media streaming "outside the home or office"; improvements of multi-PC backup and restore; simplified setup and user experience; and expanded tools and customization capabilities for partners.
The beta is available in English only, and includes a new software development kit (SDK) who want to create add-in applications for Vail. Vail requires systems with a 1.4 GHz x64 processor, 1 GB RAM, and at least one160 GB hard drive. The product is expected to be sold preloaded on OEM/system builder PCs only.
According to one customer who has been dabbling with early builds of Vail, Vail will be built on top of Windows Server 2008 R2, and will support "transparent 'virtual' (remote) applications."
"Windows Media Center currently does not support transmission of some protected content - for example HD premium content from a cable card - on remote systems, with the exception of xbox," said the customer, who asked not to be named.
"That's because the DRM chain gets broken by conventional streaming," the source continued. "If you combine a trusted media chain in the server with a virtual app which can verify the integrity of the DRM chain on the client from the transport through to the display, then you can display protected content just as Xbox does. Then you can watch that high def football game in your hotel room, if you have the bandwidth. That's pretty cloud-like. The same mechanism would support other cloud-style apps if they are enabled on the server. The combination of an untouchable virtual app and the ability to verify client side security capability is powerful - it gets around many thorny issues."
Microsoft officials are not providing a final ship-date target, but I've heard it the product is likely to ship this calendar year.