Microsoft helps home users rein in digital content

Microsoft and HP have teamed up to help home users simplify their home networks and wrestle back control of their digital content via the unveiling of the first ever Windows Home Server, the HP 'MediaSmart'. Billed as the first storage device of its kind, this machine - and competing models from other hardware vendors - should hit the market during the second half of this year.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  January 15, 2007

Microsoft and HP have teamed up to help home users simplify their home networks and wrestle back control of their digital content via the unveiling of the first ever Windows Home Server, the HP 'MediaSmart'. Billed as the first storage device of its kind, this machine - and competing models from other hardware vendors - should hit the market during the second half of this year. Showcased for the first time by Bill Gates at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, this product is aimed at the world’s Microsoft-estimated 19 million home network users who use two or more networked PCs, possibly in addition to Xbox consoles and Microsoft Zune multimedia devices. “As computers and digital media become more and more central to family life, we need better ways to organize, share and protect digital content and information at home,” said Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft. “Windows Home Server makes it easy for families to save, protect and access digital memories and experiences so they can focus on using technology to organise their day-to-day lives, explore their interests and share their memories with the people they care about.” The Home Server runs Windows Home Server operating system, which is based roughly upon its 2003 server OS. This sits on a high-capacity hardware rig, such as HP’s MediaSmart device, to allow a family or a group of house-sharers to store all their multimedia content (such as pictures, videos, movies and songs) on one central, network-connected device. If a household is running a wireless LAN therefore, this server can allow access to this content without the need for cables and from any room in the house. Two examples of Home Server use might include listening to music from any connected PC in the house or looking and laptop-saved photos on an Xbox 360. In order to safeguard a family’s much-loved content, the Home Server features an automated backup function, plus it is designed to be easily upgradable. It is even capable of being connected to remotely, meaning for instance that a user’s overseas friends and relatives could log on to his server via a free personalised Windows Live web address). In addition to the HP MediaSmart machine demonstrated by Gates onstage last week, Microsoft has also offered a reference design for its home server concept to numerous other hardware vendors (including AMD and Intel). Windows Middle East noted three additional models on display at CES, one of which was the Inventec Home Server IHS2B.500. This sleek, white, two-drive, 500Gbyte solution can be placed horizontally or vertically in a home or home office. Windows Home Servers will require connected PCs to be running Windows XP SP2 (Professional or Home editions), however systems running earlier Windows versions or other operating systems will support file sharing.

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