Microsoft to unveil Windows Home Server at CES

Microsoft is planning to share details of its long-awaited Windows Home Server at CES 2007, sources say. But, contrary to initial belief, Windows Home Server looks to be a Vista-based system, not a Windows Server-based one.

Microsoft is definitely going to talk -- at long last -- about its plans for Windows Home Server (code-named "Quattro") at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, according to my sources.

But what will this product be? That's still murky. Will it be based on the Windows Server core? Or be some kind of Windows-Vista-based system? Or more of a package of Vista Ultimate plus some Media Center Extenders, plus a router? Will the Windows Home Server systems be AMD-based? Intel-based?

I've heard from a couple of folks that, contrary to initial belief, Windows Home Server will be a Vista-based system, not a Windows Server-based one.

When Microsoft Server and Tools chief Bob Muglia let it slip in an online chat back in June 2005 that Microsoft was contemplating a "home-server" SKU, he made it seem that it would be Windows-Server-based. Muglia also told chat participants more than a year ago:

"We are always looking for new opportunities where server technology can be leveraged, and the home definitely represents an exciting new area that we are looking at along with many others. Much of the great storage, replication, and management technology would be great in a home," Muglia said. "We have seen many people install Small Business Servers at home, which really works quite well."

Months before Muglia mentioned Microsoft's mullings, blogger Rick "One Man Shouting" Hallihan outlined his suggested feature set for a Windows Home Server product. Such a product "would be a scaled back and customized version of Windows Small Business Server, running on specialized hardware, and it would simplify home networking to the point where everyone could enjoy the benefits of modern network management," Hallihan blogged, back in January, 2005.

The optimal system would include a 200+ GB hard drive, optional RAID 1, and a DVD burner, plus "be sold by OEMs bundled with Windows Server, Home Edition, similar to how Media Center PCs and Windows Storage Server are sold today," Hallihan added.

But now the word on the street is Windows Home Server won't be Windows-Server-based at all. Given the heavy Vista push expected at CES -- coupled with Microsoft's undoubted plans to put a damper on anything Apple Computer might have to say around home networking at MacWorld Expo -- the rumors could be true.

"As long as there is some kind of integration with (Windows) Media Center," I don't care what it's based on, said one Windows tester. "I want it to store all your media for your home.... to be able to network multiple Media Centers and PCs and save all your stuff on one back-end home server. That's what I've been dreaming about."

Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about exactly what the company plans to show off at the upcoming CES show. Earlier in December, Microsoft watchers speculated that Microsoft might use the show to announce another long-awaited product: Windows Live Drive, the virtual storage service about which the company has dropped several hints over the past year or so.

The guesses about LiveDrive were based on a Microsoft ad in the CES show guide which stated: "All Together Now: A new way to share, protect and store what matters most. January 2007."

As Long Zheng noted on his blog, Microsoft's "Digital Amnesia" viral-marketing campaign also seems to be part of this protect-and-store message. 

Given that back story, what would you like to see in a Windows Home Server product?