Unless you've been hiding in a cave somewhere (or just maybe working really hard this week) you've probably caught some of the incredible buzz for Microsoft Surface, unveiled at the Wall Street Journal's D conference this week. USA Today tech columnist Andrew Kantor says Surface is the "second product in a row (following Windows Home Server) to 'just work,' a la Apple." Kantor wrote about Home Server last week, too:
"Even if you only have a single computer in your home, dedicating an older machine as a WHS is a good idea simply for the protection against hard disk failure and the ability to pool your drives."
ZDNet bloggers Dan Farber and and Larry Dignan also connect Home Server to Surface, saying the two could complement each other. What do you think?
I think having WHS interact with, or even act as a back end for surface, would be an excellent idea.
As far as interactions go, there's a lot of potential. You could have it display a few of your latest family pictures (or maybe an option for your favorites), have it display the status of your network, or a variety of plugins that could interact with the server or its contents.
Now, the option of a backend for surface would be extremely neat, although it would be more difficult to implement. First of all, it would subsidize the cost of the surface itself for those with WHS. Secondly, a lot of heat producing components (hard drive, processor, etc.) would not need to be in the table, which would make the design easier (air vents for my table don't appeal to me) and allow the table to be physically thinner. Thirdly, less components means less to break. Furniture is often not treated as carefully as computers, and a moving disc in a table would be quickly destroyed by people bumping into it.
As far as surface goes (whenever it comes), I expect and really look forward to computer connectivity. Now, as far as the back end idea? I don't expect that one because it makes ownership of a home server and an active network connection necessary. I can dream, can't I?
Kantor is missing a few of Surface points, there. The difference between using a finger (or many fingers) and a mouse is actually huge. And no, devices -don't- have to be built specifically to work with surface. The general "It's friendly and it just works" idea of the article is right, but not for the reasons he mentions. The points he's dismissing or wrongfully saying are impossible are exactly what makes Surface so exciting.
As for connection to WHS, that's exactly what sprung to mind for me too. Bringing up a home automation control panel and using my hand to adjust a slider on the table to dim the lights? Awesome, in an incredibly geeky way.
I'm also imagining sitting across the table from a friend, tapping my video library (on WHS, of course), selecting a video, spinning it around and sliding it across the table to my friend. How about a media player (why not Media Center Surface?) that I can bring up on the table, physically slide stuff around in a play list, and again controlling volume simply by 'rubbing the table'?
Apart from WHS, I'm also thinking of a Media Center complement. Watching a movie on a horizontal surface isn't very good, but imagine watching a movie over IPTV, and receiving, along with the media stream, a stream of metadata about the movie, director, year of release, actors, et cetera, and having that information display on the table. If, during the movie, I want to know where I know a certain actor from, I can tap the table, select the actor from the 'current movie' cast list, and browse his filmography. All while the movie keeps playing for the rest of the family.
I think there's two factors standing in the way of making Surface a hit in the home: cost, and form factor. $10.000 is nothing for high end hotels, restaurants and casinos, but it's out of reach for the general public. Bringing the price down -without sacrificing functionality- (in other words, don't just slap a tablet PC in an IKEA table and call it Surface Home Edition) will be essential.
Form factor is also going to be important. Not every family is going to dig a transparent table-top and massive base. I'm not sure how to solve that. Perhaps a deal with IKEA? :)
I can see the commercial version of Surface providing a fun & intuitive means for remote access to Windows Home Server media. Surface availability and accessibility will be a huge challenge. When/If a home version arrives I think it cause a dramatic shift in the way we do computing at home. Hopefully bring balance in individual/social computing. Today its more like an iPod...a solo endeavor.
For Windows Home Server..it is vital for future WHS revisions to have better integration with Entertainment & Devices Division products (Windows Media Center, XBox and Zune). An above all, Windows Home Server needs to...facilitize the ability transfer & centralize DRM onto its storage array. Today, WHS does storage very well but not DRM.
Again, I saw this on the home Server blog and thought it was worth sharing. Not the information about