We opened up the floodgates today. If you filled out the survey at the Windows Home Server Connect site, and answered the questions correctly, then you should have received an invite to join the Windows Home Server Beta 2 program. If you can't burn your own DVDs and CDs, then order a Disk Kit. If you don't have the right hardware, then head to the store. If you don't have Windows Home Server up and running, how can you help us make it better?
A special thanks goes out to the early contributors to the Home Server Forums who have helped answer some of the simpler questions, troubleshoot some of the more difficult and help people find the pre-posted bugs and suggestions on the Windows Home Server Connect site, so the product team doesn't have to waste time wading through a lot of duplicates.
Beta 2 was Build #1301, and since that time the product team has been busy cranking out new builds every day. Today, we are up to Build #1345 which included English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese builds of the product. The testing continues and the user interface continues to evolve, as the builds are really starting to look nicer and work better every day. We still need sometime to work on the user interface and get some of the bugs out before releasing a new build. As plans firm up, I will be sure to share them on the blog.
Joel Sider, our smooth talking, Public Relations guy did a video with the Channel 10 guys. Check it out to get a video vignette of some of the latest news.
p.s. If you didn't yet fill out a survey to participate in Windows Home Server Beta 2, the survey form is still available. We will look at extending invitations to the people that queue up once or twice a week if we think we can handle the volume.
Windows Home Server (WHS) and Windows Small Business Server (SBS) are both built in the same organization at Microsoft, the Windows Server Solutions Group (WSSG) - two new 3 letter acronyms and one new 4 letter acronym for everybody to add to their knowledge banks. We often get asked how are these 2 products different and also what do they have in common?
Both products are based on the proven technologies of Windows Server 2003, and both are targeted to meet the specific needs of a specific market segment. Windows Home Server is targeted at consumers with a broadband connection and multiple PCs, and Windows Small Business Server is designed to meet the needs of a small business with up to 75 employees. Windows Home Server will support up to 10 users, plus a Guest account.
Windows Small Business Server Standard Edition comes with Microsoft Exchange Server so that small businesses can have their own on-premise e-mail server. On the other hand, Windows Home Server will not come with any e-mail functionality. I know several people that use Windows Small Business Server in their homes, with some people hosting an e-mail service for all of their family members and close friends.
The prices will be different. As you can expect Windows Home Server will cost less than Windows Small Business Server. I am sorry that I can't say any more about the expected price of Windows Home Server for awhile, but when I can ... there will surely be a blog post.
Windows Small Business Server comes into 2 different editions, Standard and Premium, and you can read about all the features and differences at http://www.microsoft.com/sbs. Windows Home Server will initially only have a single edition, so we will just call the first version - Windows Home Server. I suggest that you all go read about SBS, as it is a cool product that more people should know about.
When we first starting thinking about building Windows Home Server we knew that there would be a natural (or unnatural) tension between "technical enthusiasts" and my "mom and dad". Enthusiasts want lots of "knobs and buttons", options for configuring everything, basic options, advanced options, hidden options, options that enable other options, drop downs, check boxes, radio buttons, etc. etc. My mom and dad want the clock on their VCR to stop flashing 12:00 pm. We decided to settle somewhere in the middle leaning a little closer to the "mom and dad" side of the fence from a user interface perspective, yet a little closer to the "technical enthusiasts" in developing some cool software that does some pretty complicated stuff in a pretty simple way, like the Windows Home Server Backup & Restore functionality, and Windows Home Server Drive Extender™ technologies.
As Charlie Kindel mentioned a while back in his post "Why Doesn't Home Server do foo?" there are a few principles that we used to guide the Windows Home Server project. One additional principle we continue to focus on is trying to "Build an acronym free user interface." Why should people have to know what their TCP/IP address provided by their DHCP server is, when they just want to access their files on their home server from one of their home computers?
In the Alpha builds and Beta I build of Windows Home Server there was no way to configure the Server Settings from the Windows Home Server Console. We listened to a lot of feedback (both positive and NEGATIVE), we did a lot of usability testing, and we have done a number of surveys. We started adding a "knob" here and a "button" there to deliver the functionality that a lot of people asked for over and over:
We continue to listen to the feedback from everybody that is using Windows Home Server Beta 2. There are some suggestions that are easy to address and there are some that are considerably harder. My favorite - "How do I change the name of my home server?" will be a new "knob" (or is it a "button"?) available in a post Beta 2 build.
Our goal is to make a simple yet powerful product that people can readily understand from the user interface without having to read a manual or consult the help file. It is easy to add lots of "knobs" and "buttons" and build convuluted user interfaces with 3 or 4 different ways to accomplish the same task. It is smart design when the VCR sets the time automatically based on a GPS (Global Positioning System) chip set inside of the box and automatically adjusts to weird changes in daylight saving time. By the way, most people in the USA are turning their clocks forward this spring a little earlier than normal, except for those lucky people that live in states or parts of states that choose not to pay any attention to this stuff.
Anyways, it is time to hit the "Publish" button and go home.