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How Much Should A Home Server Cost?

windows-home-server-logo-large.jpgThe big unanswered question with Windows Home Server is how much it’ll cost you to get one. I’m going to try to answer that question, based on the minimum system requirements:

Let’s start on the OEM side, by looking at the offerings from Dell, since its pricing can be somewhat reliable, and usually at the severe low end of the pricing spectrum. Also, lets assume we are buying a system with a 64-bit AMD Sempron processor, since those are being quoted for the HP reference design, and are both cheap and future-proof.

Dell’s cheapest possible Dimension PC meets the Home Server requirements, and features:

Processor AMD Sempron™ 3400+ (2 gigahertz core)
Operating system Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition
Memory 512MB Single Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz - 1DIMM
Hard drive 80GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM)
Optical drive 16X DVD-ROM Drive
Price $359

Now, for comparison, a similar system by a system builder in my area, ComputerNYC (I have no idea if they are any good):

Processor AMD Athlon64™ 3500+ (2.2 gigahertz core)
Operating system Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition
Memory 512MB Single Channel DDR RAM - 2DIMM
Hard drive 80GB Hard Drive (7200RPM)
Optical drive 16X DVD-ROM Drive
Price $482

The Dell system is a slightly better deal, however, the ComputerNYC system can be ordered without an operating system for $92 less ($390) and comes with a faster and better processor, so I’ll call it a wash. It seems like a simple matter to get a Windows Home Server capable system for $400, with Windows XP. The kicker: Home Server is an operating system, and you’d have to replace Windows XP with Home Server, which presents an entirely different set of problems.

We can assume Dell will only offer Home Server initially on some configurations, probably taking a high-end route and only letting you buy with a ton of hard drive space, a unique case, and more expensive hardware. As a result, don’t expext to find it on their cheapest PCs. System builders, on the other hand, will usually do whatever the hell you want, even sell you Home Server without a PC. Windows Media Center was only supposed to be sold with a PC or an upgrade, and some stores sold it with an “upgrade” of a power strip. Cute.

Lets compare some Microsoft operating systems, as priced at Newegg:

Product Price
Microsoft Windows XP Home With SP2B 1 Pack - OEM $90
Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 w/SP2B - OEM $110
Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2b 1pk w/Upgrade Coupon for Vista - OEM $140
Microsoft Windows Server for Small Business 2003 with SP1 5 Client - Retail $410
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition 1PK OEM $680
Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Standard - Retail $1180

Pricing for Windows Storage Server, a very different but similarly-useful product, is estimated to be between half and equal that of Windows Server Standard. I’m going to estimate it at $300-400, based on current Microsoft products but if Microsoft is smart, a price equal to that of Vista Home Premium at retail the sweet spot at which it will be a good seller is $150 higher than XP/Vista Home, or about $240, making the cost of our fictional system builder Home Server at:

Total: $632

With a gigabyte of storage coming to about $400, and some people having hard drives lying all over the place (and keep in mind, external drives work just as well), I’d say $600 for a base Home Server and $1000 for a 1-terabyte Home Server to be right in the sweet spot. Now, the question to be answered in the future is: Can I build a system for less than $390, and buy Home Server elsewhere? If any of my readers want to answer that one, I’d be very interested.

update - fixed typo
update - clarified assumption on price of Home Server OS

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Server, Home Server | 13 comments

Windows Home Server Promo Site, Prototypes

digital-amnesia.jpg

Check this out: StopDigitalAmnesia.com, a promo site for Windows Home Server. It features the “Center for Digital Amnesia”’s website and their self-proclaimed fake doctor, who will educate you on the horrors of losing all your data. Pretty funny stuff.

Also, Mary Jo Foley has photos of several Windows Home Server prototypes. Take a look:

windows-home-server-prototypes.jpg

From left to right: The Microsoft “hockey-puck” reference design; the Inventec Home Server IHS2B.500; a 64-bit AMD Live! Home Media server.

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Server, Home Server | no comments

Microsoft Wants You To Whip Out Your “Wow”

Microsoft is running a promo website, ShowUsYourWow.msn.com, asking uses to submit their “Wow”s, for a chance to win prizes.

What is “Wow?”

When did something leave you awed and exhilarated? The birth of a child? Or was it an historic event, like a classic sporting moment? Maybe it was something you’d never seen before - something that made you go, “Wow.” Pick your own video and photos and show the world your “Wow.”

While I can completely understand the idea of promoting around the Vista launch slogan of “The Wow Starts Now”, I have no idea what this contest is asking for. What’s a “Wow”? I guess you could send in anything, as long as it “Wow”s you. I’d better dig out that video of me clipping my toenails…

The prizes? Grand prize is a global “Wow” experience, with you winning a high definition video camera which you can use to document a free seven-day trip for two to an area of your choice, either Sydney’s Harbor Bridge and Opera House, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Empire State Building, or the Eiffel Tower. One winner in each qualifying country or region will receive a Windows Vista Ultimate PC, desktop and monitor or laptop.
(via Bink)

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Vista | one comment

Don’t Forget The KB Cafe Blog Awards

With all the traffic coming here today (seems like everybody and their mother linked to my Home Server scoop), it’s worth reminding everyone to vote in the KB Cafe blog awards. I’d pay particular attention to the “Best Microsoft Blog” category. That’s I-N-S-I-D-E-M-I-C… eh, you get it. Better throw InsideGoogle, Apple Watch and Hoffman’s Hearsay a bone while you’re at it.

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Blogs | no comments

XNA Quake

This is a really cool discovery: PerPixel is working on an XNA port of the classic shooter Quake. He’s got screenshots up on his blog, which is supposed to have news about the project, but until he starts posting, a Google search should do.

For now, the screenshots:

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Xbox, Xbox 360, Developers | no comments

Gears Of War Getting New Maps

Gears of War fans (and there are several million of you), rejoice! Two new maps are coming to the game as a free download this Wednesday, January 10 (Australia and New Zealand get it on the 11th). Kotaku has the details and beautiful pics.

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Applications, Xbox, Office, Xbox 360, Gears of War | no comments

Free Office 2007 Professional For Attending Event

Microsoft is holding a number of Technet Events around the country, giving a free copy (actually a product key, but there’s no real difference) of Office 2007 Professional and Office 2007 Groove to attendees. The events are free, and the one in my area runs just four hours, which is a great trade for $530 of free software. If you will be attending the New York event on February 20 from 8am-12, let me know.
(via Digg)

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Applications, Office | 3 comments

Microsoft CES 2007: The Day After

Well, now that everyone’s Bill Gates keynote hangover is winding down, lets wrap up everything we’ve learned.

First, the announcements:

  • Windows Home Server - Coming by the middle of this year, a simple box that sits at the center of your home, acting as central storage for your media and backing up all your computers, as well as enabling remote access to media and networked computers.
  • IPTV on Xbox 360 - Coming late 2007, TV over the internet to your Xbox, via various service provider partners on Microsoft’s IPTV protocol.
  • Windows Vista Ultimate Extras - Two announced, the motion desktop (called Dream Scene) and Group Shot.
  • Windows Vista Media Center SportsLounge - Integration of sports watching features in Media Center, including a FOX Sports stats panel while watching games and fantasy sports tracking features.
  • First uses of Live Anywhere, including Xbox Live social features on the PC, Xbox Live Marketplace games on the PC, and games you can play on the PC versus Xbox users.

It is always tough waiting for products to come out, especially waiting about 8-10 months for IPTV on the Xbox 360. The good news is that at least Home Server will be here by early summer, and even if manufacturers design horribly expensive systems, the system builder channel guarantees you can buy a “grey market” copy of the Home Server operating system and build a more than decent Home Server out of a five-year old Windows XP PC and some big hard drives.

On10 has videos of many of the announced products, including Windows Home Server, Vista Ultimate Extras, Xbox 360 IPTV

Here’s Microsoft’s press release rundown.

Paul Thurrott has a preview of Home Server, revealing that it is indeed based on Windows Server 2003 R2, and that hard drives can be removed from the Home Server and the data will be readable by other PCs (not including the backups). He reveals that remote access will be through Windows Live, and some info on remote access of home PCs. He notes that Macs can access the Home Server easilly and use it for their backups as well. He notes the specs of HP’s announced Home Server:

HP will demonstrate a tiny home server at CES that features a sleek micro-tower design, four externally accessible, hot-swappable SATA hard drive bays, and 4 USB 2.0 ports. It utilizes a low-end 64-bit AMD Sempron processor running at 1.8 GHz and features 512 MB of RAM. You can connect a printer and share it out to other systems on your network.

He also has screenshots of the software. Well, if he can share his screenshots, so can I!

1 - system tray

2 - passwords sync

3 - user accounts

4 - shared folders

5 - backup details

6 - restore wizard

7 - remove hard drive

8 - home network healt

9 - shared folder settings

10 - general settings

11 - computer and backup settings

Ina Fried has an interview with Bill Gates regarding Home Server. Gates says its important that you don’t need a server administrator and that the price be low enough, under $1000. I’m thinking $500 is the sweet spot, and that any manufacturer that overloads it with hard drives is never going to sell the box (let the users supply the storage based on their own budget).

Charlie Kindel ran this photo of a super low profile Home Server:

Much better than the monstrosity HP is showing off, that will likely cost too much and depress the market.

LiveSide has the news that Home Server internet access will be through a free Windows Live service. Brandon LeBlanc found a fact sheet on Home Server at Microsoft.com with interesting info, including hardware partners.

Turns out StarDock, the folks behind WindowBlinds and other Windows mods, were heavily involved in the work on DreamScene, which allows for animated desktop wallpaper. WinCustomize.com will be the official repository of DreamScene content, going live when Vista hits stores. They’re even extending it with DeskScapes, which allows the wallpaper to change based on events, like the time of the day causing the sun to rise and set on the wallpaper.

TweakVista ran these two Soapbox videos of DreamScene:


Video: Windows Vista Ultimate Extra: DreamScene (Motion Desktop)


Video: Windows Vista Ultimate Extras: DreamScene 2

The new Windows Ultimate Extras website has gone live, and it officially confirms the Texas Hold ‘Em game for Vista:

Joystiq shows off video of Xbox 360’s IPTV.

Apparently, Halo 2 will not connect through Live PC players and Xbox 360 players, no matter how confusing the language in the keynote.

Other announcements:

Yahoo is showing off a new version of Yahoo! Messenger that is designed for Windows Vista, using the Windows Presentation Foundation to improve the look and scalability of the user interface. Take a look at this screenshot, via this blog:

yahoo wpf messenger

UPDATE - I’ve written more about Yahoo’s Messenger at InsideGoogle, including linking to a video of it in action.

Engadget spotted what might be Dell’s Bluetooth-powered Sideshow player.

HP revealed an HDTV with Media Center Extender built right into it.

January 8th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Yahoo, Media Center, Xbox, Xbox 360, Vista, Live, Xbox Live, Server, Home Server | 3 comments