Thanks for all of the great comments and e-mails over the last few days - it is hard to know where to start in answering all of the questions. But, since this one often gets asked by 1 or more people ....
"Why don't you put Exchange in Windows Home Server?"
There are a lot of reasons why the first version of Windows Home Server will not provide any e-mail functionality for a family:
We strive to make the right decisions based on our customer research. And we will continue to do research to see if over time consumers do really want to host their own e-mail infrastructure...
This product sounds interesting, but no "killer feature" or reason to spend what sounds like will be a fair bit of cash given the need for extra hardware.
I have 5 computers at home and an Xbox 360 (2 Vista + 2 XP + an iMac) and have had the kinds of problems I think you're trying to address - getting them all to behave together, sychronizing files and making sure everything's backed up etc.etc.
But there are already cheap products/services which seem to do most of the stuff you're talking about without needed new hardware. I use Carbonite for backups onto a secure Internet site - better than onto a separate hard disk at home surely and accessible even if my home's burned down, MyPcToGo for remote access, and AllWaySync to keep the PCs at home in sync. All this for about $50 a year.
So I don't quite get it yet?! What's really new here?
@ beaumoj, what if carbonite goes out of business?
I would love to see Microsoft add secure online storage - similar to Carbonite, et al - to their "Live" portfolio. It would be great if could run on PCs or WHS.
I understand beaumoj concern and that will Microsoft's marketing challenge. Here are a couple of my thoughts on Windows Home Server...
1. It performs a full system backup (system files, executables, etc)..most online services don't offer that
2. It offers full system recovery option
3. Recovery doesn't require broadband service and much faster than your 2-8MB cable/dsl service could ever provide. Who wants to wait all day for your files to be recovered?
4. Power of keeping document version history and recovery to a specific version
5. Global Search
This product is perfectly suited for SOHO users and geekheads.
I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft eventually releases and ties Live Drive to Windows Home Server as a secondary level backup (insurance policy).
If I am wrong about any of this please respond.
I can't wait for this to come out. I also think that there is no need for hosted email - the main thing I want is a nice backup server :)
Also, Gmail offers free hosted mail as well (20 accounts with 2Gigs for each) - so why bother with our own storage space when it's there for free.
heaphus..I second that. I'm just guessing, but Microsoft probably could/should offer something like that to standalone users. For the cost of Vista Ultimate, I would offer to those customers for free. However, its currently not a practical solution for individuals with large library of video files. Things might change if broadband upload/download speeds of 5/25 become generally available..which could be 3-4 years away.
I agree 100% that email is probably not right for WHS. I used to run SBS at home for web, email, and file sharing. I got rid of it for web and email (and eventually file sharing) because I realized a few things. 1. If my cable modem goes down or the power goes out I don't get email and people can't visit my website. 2. I don't like being an Exchange/IIS admin.
For me, I was happier once I got web and email outside of my home network and someone else was worrying about keeping it running.
One suggestion I'd like to make to WHS team. Please consider adding functionality to backup/restore WHS to/from a USB drive plugged into WHS and/or remote PC's High Def Burner. Have physical media that I can store in a safe is powerful insurance here in S.Florida. In keeping with target consumer..WHS backup/restore needs to be made simple.
Can't wait to get a hold of one the first WHS units.
For me, having a version of Exchange built-in is less about hosting my own e-mail and more about the sharing and mobile access it enables in Outlook.
For sharing, I would love to have shared folders for family contacts and calendars to know what's going on in the family. I bet if a little research was done on this the majority of families out there would say that making it easier to understand and organize the family's schedule would be an invaluable feature.
For remote access, it would be great to have a personal version of Outlook Web Access (remember - not just e-mail either.) Also, wouldn't it be great if the thousands of people that own smartphones could sync to their home Outlook accounts wirelessly (again not just e-mail) without resorting to third-party add-ons that are probably only going to give them new e-mails anyway?
By the way, I'm not sure how the research was conducted for this product but we must remember that the majority of users may not see a need for this because they don't even know it's possible! Even the majority of my small business customers are amazed when I set these things up for them.
Keep up the good work and thanks for communicating with us about the progress.
My main interest in WHS is for File storage, Backups and hopefully Streaming the familys Multimedia files to the TV's, PC's and MP3/PDA devices around the house.
But, i do like some of the ideas others that have posted here. Like roaming profiles or gamertags, and the ability to save backups to an external HDD or HD-DVD. So the backups can be safely stored off site.
I have an idea for the people looking for an e-mail server. As i understand it there will be a 'Live Domain' included with WHS for remote acces. Maybe that could be upgraded to a 'Live Office' account, which i believe includes both a website and e-mail along with your domain.
This all boils down to how much your time vs. money is worth. Most of us here could easily cobble something together like you have with various software products but the busier I get these days the more I appreciate an off the shelf solution. You are using three separate applications, all with separate license keys, separate payments, separate check-ups for patches and bug fixes, separate UI's for others to learn. Again, not really a big deal for a single person to manage but at this stage in my life I've decided I'd rather spend that time with my wife or friends than managing my home IT infrastructure, even if it is only 2 hours a month of maintenance.
Another boon I see with WHS is the ability for someone besides myself to use the product. I've become the de facto IT guy for me and my wife's extended family and I'm getting tired of running around installing backup software, setting up sync software, making sure all their products are fully patched, etc. I'd much rather be able to say, "just buy this one thing here" instead of "OK, you'll want a cheap PC plus buy this... and this... and this".
In one way you are correct, there *isn't* anything new here but then again there was absolutely nothing new about the iPod when it came out (I'd had an MP3 player for a year at least prior) yet it's simplicity and elegant design, not to mention the massive marketing, really captured the market. Often products aren't about being new, they're about taking what exists and presenting it in a way that's easy to use and accessible. Just for the record I own a Zune now but I give the iPod the historical respect it deserves.
All this said I'm really interested to hear any future details on how this may work into an MCE + XBox 360 ecosystem like I have currently.
It should certainly automate the backup of PST Files, and make moving them there more simple to allow access from any machine. I agree that OWA and Sync and Mobile wuld be great to have, but Exchange is way over the head of the target audience, and would require "alot" of work t get thse things. If Outlook ever converts to storing the messages in the former WinFS then this database should sync to Home Server as well.
I'd follow the principles of KISS -- "keep it simple, stupid!"
For the target audience, simple does not mean managing email.
Honestly, it may seem like second nature to most of us, and we would love to have that degree of control. And personally, I would ~love~ to be able to have my home server take care of email for me. But I'm not the core target audience for this product. Based on the research done, it's an audience who wants to store and share and protect their stuff.
Now maybe this ~also~ means that the target audience is a little too narrow or too idealised, but that's a different discussion. In the context of this one, you have to make the product for the market, focus on what they want (both in terms of features and usability) and leave out what they don't need. Every single feature has to live or die by that one rule -- is this appropriate for our target audience?
Perhaps there's room for an enhancement or add-on which will let it run email -- after all, WHS is a platform, and you could easily have Microsoft (or another company) offer a server program that adds email management to WHS for those of us who want it.
But out of the box, I'd say Microsoft is right in keeping the focus on simplicity and the basics.
What will be needed (and I'm speaking here as a professional journalist as well as someone who's previously been a pr/marketing professional) is communication of those basic KISS principles and the target audience to the techie mags. I can see so many tech mags and Web sites sledging the WHS because of their own expectations of what a server (or even home server) should have, failing against it in the first few pars because it doesn't have all these features that a 'power user' may expect. They need to be briefed from top down, endlessly have the message hammered into them as the framing reference for every feature in every PowerPoint slide, that this is for the casual everyday home user and is built around their explicit needs.
There are two kinds of email people... people that think Exchange is good.. and people that want to outsource
I have opened a forum for Windows Home Server on my site and will be featuring on my podcast in the future