Fry’s Electronics will begin selling Windows Home Server 2011 for $40 later today. This price rivals some one-day sale prices for the home server operating system, but is the first time it has been offered as a standard week-long sale price.
Windows Home Server is designed to enable a PC (even an older/retired PC) to function as a home server, for both mobile and desktop devices. Building on the original Windows Home Server, Microsoft offers a series of apps, both that extend the ability of the operating system, as well as apps for mobile devices. In addition to a mobile web interface, Microsoft now offers Windows Home Server connection apps for iPhone and iPad, that allow photos and videos stored on the Home Server to be access from anywhere in the world.
To extreme deal hunters, Windows Home Server 2011 also serves another purpose. Underneath the dead simple user interface is a full copy of Windows Server 2008 R2, the same kernel as Windows 7. This means that the vast majority of Windows 7 applications will run on Windows Home Server 2011, unmodified. At $40 per seat, Windows Home Server 2011 is the cheapest (albeit, unofficial) desktop operating system that can be legally licensed from Microsoft.
Many have thought the lifespan of Windows Home Server is limited, as Windows 8 incorporates many of the features of Windows Home Server, including the Drive Expander feature that was controversially gutted from the second generation of WHS. Others however believe WHS will continue on as an add-on from the Windows Marketplace. Evidence for this largely comes from Microsoft’s decision to sideline Windows Media Center as a separate, $29.99 Media Pack, which will require Windows 8 Professional. A similar add-on for WHS functionality would presumably also require a Windows 8 Professional license, but that would also be controversial – part of WHS’s target audience is running on an older, dated machine.
Also encroaching on Windows Home Server’s territory, SkyDrive. Microsoft’s cloud based storage service is intended to become the premiere place to store documents. Windows 8 strongly encourages developers to make SkyDrive the default document storage location, even over a user’s local storage. Still, Windows Home Server isn’t out for the count yet. With Microsoft touting a Private Cloud solution for corporate users, Home Server may co-exist with SkyDrive as a Private Cloud solution for consumers. With BitLocker (finally) getting comprehensive inclusion in Windows 8, it’s a brighter future than some might expect at first glance for Windows Home Server.