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Conflicting Goals and Ideas RRS feed

  • Question

  • Once approved for the Beta, I installed the software with the Getting Started guide and have been testing and posting forum and feedback comments with my initial impressions.

    I just started going through the "Reviewer" documentation and I've hit a "mental roadblock", specifically with these statments:

    The plan is to make the final release of Windows Home Server available to customers in two forms:

    ·      A tightly integrated hardware/software solution sold by numerous companies through retail stores and web-based e-commerce stores.

    ·      A software only version that can be installed and configured by System Builders  or technical enthusiasts to build specific solutions with Windows Home Server.

    In both cases the primary usage model for a device powered by Windows Home Server will be “headless”, meaning there is no keyboard, mouse, or monitor connected to the device running the home server software.  In fact, all of the integrated hardware/software solutions will not even come with a port for plugging in a monitor.

    This brings up a couple of concerns for me:

    First, several posts have been talking about the target audience and several individuals have led others to believe that enthusiasts were not really the target audience (EDIT:  Please read that as "part of the target audience" - I didn't originally mean to imply "the" target audience).  That doesn't seem to be the case, in this paragraph at least.  Therefore, a lot of the comments that have been made on this forum would seem to be MUCH more valid than initially believed.  I've noticed some posts dwindling away that really shouldn't if I am reading bullet #2 correctly.  But it is hard to interpret - almost conflicting:  "technical enthusiasts" don't build solutions (unless you are referring to the smaller number of enthusiasts that use the SDK for ad-hoc solutions), System Builders and vendors do.  But System Builders would build systems for bullet #1 that are sold in retail stores or online.  Perhaps this is just poorly drafted (no offense to the writer! ), but it seems to me that enthusiasts would be a target.  I had a very hard time understanding why Microsoft would alienate them because I personally believe more enthusiasts will buy this than mom.  This paragraph seems give some credence to that.

    Second, the idea of "headless" introduces a lot of issues in my mind.  Sorry Microsoft, I mean no offense, but all of the headless solutions I have used successfully AND trusted are Linux based.  Automatic Updates are great, but they aren't the answer to viruses and malware.  If you're relying on that, it's a bad idea IMHO.  If "mom" gets a virus and the virus spreads to WHS, how do you now deal with that?  I mean I'm just skimming the surface here too.  I enjoy Windows, but it is still... Windows.  There are a LOT of changes that would need to be made to WHS (that I wasn't even initially thinking about) if the PRIMARY USAGE MODEL is going to be headless.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 3:46 PM

Answers

  • Shaun,

    My conclusion is that technical enthusiasts (including just about all beta testers) are a secondary market, based on:
    Being a secondary market is a good thing, I believe. All too often the technical enthusiast is ignored in this sort of product. It's designed to be easy for an Excel jockey to take home and set up, and that could easily have turned into "just another NAS." Instead we have an operating system built on the code base of Windows Server 2003, with some really cool additional features (Drive Extender and Single Instance Storage for the backup tool) that are well-thought out and particularly appealing to the home market, because they solve potentially complex problems in a very simple way.

    Being built on Windows Server 2003, there's a lot of potential for add-ons. Anything that runs on that platform should at least have a good chance of working on WHS. For example, my wife and I collect books. So I've installed a third party book (and CD and DVD) cataloging solution that offers a client/server model called Readerware on WHS, where the server piece runs fine. I have a large collection of audio tracks in iTunes, which I've put on WHS and serve up through the house with FireFly Media Server. Others have reported that they can run WSS3.0 or other server applications successfully, and are finding them to be useful solutions for their home networks.

    However, we (as beta testers) should try to remember that we aren't the number one target market. We're about 1/3 of the potential market (according to a post on the blog), and (I would think) maybe 1/4 of actual sales, since some technical enthusiasts will buy the appliance from HP or whoever because it's easier and they really don't want to be bothered building yet another computer.

    As for features, I'm quite certain that if someone at Microsoft thinks of an easy-to-solve problem for the home network that can be added to WHS in a heartbeat, and which the Excel jockey will love but the enthusiast community will hate, they wouldn't hesitate for a second in adding it.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 4:40 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • You hit the nail on the head.  If the product is going to be sold to both markets, then I agree, I do not seem to sense a lot of listening to the folks who are giving inputs to the second bullet.

    I have talked to some folks who are very close to this product, and the inputs I am getting so far can be taken as if only #1 is the market this product is going after.

    So, am looking forward to someone on the WHS team helping clear this up.

    Dave

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 4:06 PM
  • Shaun,

    My conclusion is that technical enthusiasts (including just about all beta testers) are a secondary market, based on:
    Being a secondary market is a good thing, I believe. All too often the technical enthusiast is ignored in this sort of product. It's designed to be easy for an Excel jockey to take home and set up, and that could easily have turned into "just another NAS." Instead we have an operating system built on the code base of Windows Server 2003, with some really cool additional features (Drive Extender and Single Instance Storage for the backup tool) that are well-thought out and particularly appealing to the home market, because they solve potentially complex problems in a very simple way.

    Being built on Windows Server 2003, there's a lot of potential for add-ons. Anything that runs on that platform should at least have a good chance of working on WHS. For example, my wife and I collect books. So I've installed a third party book (and CD and DVD) cataloging solution that offers a client/server model called Readerware on WHS, where the server piece runs fine. I have a large collection of audio tracks in iTunes, which I've put on WHS and serve up through the house with FireFly Media Server. Others have reported that they can run WSS3.0 or other server applications successfully, and are finding them to be useful solutions for their home networks.

    However, we (as beta testers) should try to remember that we aren't the number one target market. We're about 1/3 of the potential market (according to a post on the blog), and (I would think) maybe 1/4 of actual sales, since some technical enthusiasts will buy the appliance from HP or whoever because it's easier and they really don't want to be bothered building yet another computer.

    As for features, I'm quite certain that if someone at Microsoft thinks of an easy-to-solve problem for the home network that can be added to WHS in a heartbeat, and which the Excel jockey will love but the enthusiast community will hate, they wouldn't hesitate for a second in adding it.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 4:40 PM
    Moderator
  • Excellent points as always, Ken!

    Thanks for the extra links.  I'm checking them out now.  I would fully agree that we're only 1/3 or 1/4 of the market, but it is nice to know we are at least part of the equation for marketing and not just a test bed.  There is nothing more frustrating than beta testing a product only to find the final version is nothing that you expected and no longer has purpose for you.

    Ken, my wife and I are also book lovers (as are our children) and I currently use a product which comes with it's own web based cataloging software.  You've got me very interested in this "Readerware" product though - thanks for that tidbit!  I will try that out today.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 4:56 PM
  • I don't want to take this off-topic, but I think it has applicability to general use.

    Looking at your readerware example running as client/server.  The readerware server must be storing the data as some sort of database on your server (whether actual database files, flat files, whatever...).  Is it using a shared directory (from WHS) to store this data (file or files)?  You would need to do this so that the files could be duplicated.

    There appears to be no way to backup data on the server itself that is not part of a duplicated share. 

    I was just thinking about applications that might fit the server/client approach well (and run on WHS) that may not be able to use a network share for their data (even though it's really on the same machine).  I guess one approach would be to map a shared folder to a local drive letter on that machine in order for the data to be duplicated.

    I think the ability to run backups of lettered drives on the WHS machine (not part of the WHS-managed shares) would also be a good way to handle this.  It would be useful if you could schedule backups of the WHS machine to itself for things like this.
    Monday, March 26, 2007 12:25 PM
  • Smee (smee?! Which smee? ),

    Yes, Readerware can store it's database (it uses the original HyperSonic SQL, so basically a flat file in the file system that it reads into an in-memory relational engine) in a network share. And that share has duplication turned on. In addition, since this is beta software, the entire share is duplicated weekly on another PC on my network. I can't think of the last time I ran across an application that was unable to use a UNC path for it's data, and that's all that's required to use a WHS share as a data store.

    But even installing and running ReaderWare is far beyond what the average (technically unsophisticated) user of WHS is likely to be able to accomplish. Anything beyond the WHS Console is the realm of the savvy user, IMO. In the home environment, running backups of WHS is pointless as long as there's data integrity (in the form of share duplication, in this case) built into the operating system.
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 4:19 PM
    Moderator