Microsoft builds up Windows Home Server features, ecosystem

But Power Pack 2 doesn't add full compatibility with Macs, Linux PCs

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday plans to release Power Pack 2 for Windows Home Server with improvements to remote file access, as well as the sharing and streaming of video and music files.

According to a blog posted Monday night, WHS users will be able to get the Power Pack automatically on Tuesday if Automatic Updates are turned on.

The software maker is also making WHS available for free to software developers who subscribe to its MSDN or Technet networks. Previously, developers had to buy WHS or wait for a 120-day evaluation DVD to be sent via mail.

These steps should help accelerate the creation of third-party "add-in" software running on the WHS operating system. There are 100 free and paid add-ins today, according to Microsoft senior product manager Steven Leonard.

Power Pack 2 includes improvements for users to more easily access files on their WHS system through the Web while away from home, Leonard said. Other new features include the ability to stream media files, including MP4-encoded video files, on the WHS server to a TV or stereo through a Media Center PC or a Media Center extender.

Not included in Power Pack 2 is the ability to do automated backup and monitoring of Mac OS and Linux PCs in the network.

WHS's automated backup wholly clones all of the content on Windows client PCs so that it can be quickly re-installed in case of a crash.

Automated backup of other operating systems would seem to be a key feature, since WHS has, so far, been adopted mostly by techies, who likely have many PCs, including non-Windows machines, that they might want to back up.

Leonard noted that WHS can automatically back up Intel chip-based Macs, provided they are running Windows via virtualization software from vendors such as VMware Inc. or Parallels Inc.

There are also third-party tools that allow files on Macs and Linux PCs to be automatically synchronized to a Windows Home Server, Leonard said. He pointed to Hewlett-Packard Co.'s second-generation MediaSmart servers running WHS, which can automatically sync Mac files.

Microsoft has considered but dismissed building native Mac synchronization feature into WHS. "Have we looked at it? Sure, but we think there is a lot more work to be done for the Windows platform, so that's the path we're going down," Leonard said. There has been no discussion about adding this feature for Linux, however, he said.

Leonard declined to say when the next major version of WHS will be available. Microsoft is working on consumer-oriented features that link WHS closely with Windows 7 when it is released, he said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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