Microsoft Makes Windows Home Server a Tough Sell

It's a good product, but average users may want nothing to do with a network "server."

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HP MediaSmart Server
HP MediaSmart Server

"Headless server." While it sounds like something from a bad horror story, it's a geek term that until now was largely kept under wraps in windowless information-technology rooms. Brace yourself: It's a term that also applies to Windows Home Server, announced today by Microsoft.

Microsoft has a big challenge in convincing average users that Home Server is something they need. It's even tougher because Microsoft, for some reason, felt compelled to call the product a "server." That's something we all equate with the IT department, not home. Couldn't Microsoft have called it something a bit friendlier? Maybe "Home Media Manager" or even "PC Buddy."

A headless server, by the way, is a computer that operates without a monitor or keyboard. You set it up and configure it from another computer across the network. And that's what you get if you buy some of the new products available from Microsoft partners, including Hewlett-Packard's MediaSmart Server. It's a computer that's been beheaded to act like a central storage closet for home networks.

Reviewers, including me, are surprisingly enthusiastic about Home Server. It largely succeeds in simplifying a home network. But unfortunately, home users have to be first convinced that they, too, can be tech gods with their own server. A headless one, at that.