Can Microsoft Say 'Home Server?'

Apparently, yes.

The company plans to have an inexpensive Longhorn-based home server available at retail as early as April, sources said.

Details are sketchy but the big picture is clear. Microsoft isn't willing to watch Linux-based appliances take over even more valuable home real estate than they already have. Tivo devices, for example, are famously little black boxes running the evil Linux OS. So Microsoft's gonna field a home appliance of it's own--no doubt built by a low-cost manufacturer-- that will attempt to meld TV/PC worlds.

Microsoft exec Bob Muglia talked generally about the notion of a Longhorn-based "Home Server" two years ago but there hasn't been much noise around it lately as Microsoft has worked feverishly to get Vista and Office 2007 to the loading dock.

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Says one Microsoft source, carefully speaking in the hypothetical: "It would be nice to come out with a very low-cost/low profile server--something easy to use and easy to add large hard drives to. It would not only back up all the PCs in your house, but also handle patch management, anti-virus/spam filtering/anti-spyware/firewall, AND also act as a TV server." (Emphasis mine.)

Microsoft OneCare to the rescue, I presume.

On the TV side, the (hypothetical) user would plug in his/her cable TV or satellite feed into this same box and could then run Slingbox or some like-minded app on every PC in the abode to stream broadcast wherever.

There could be a cheapo USB remote control for these devices, so users could watch PC-resident programming on the TV or monitor in the bedroom, in the tub. Wherever.

If it works out, you would get Tivo-like functions-fast forward, pause, recordAND you could filter out naughty TV channels as well as bad Web sites for the kiddies.

Officially, Microsoft Longhorn peeps had no comment.

But it would be a good way to obviate the need so many feel to have a TV in nearly every room. If you've got nice monitors all connected up, you'd start watching programs on them served up from your Microsoft TV-slash-home server combo.

The critical issue is that this server must mimic the Tivos it would replace: Meaning it couldn't go down because of every Tom-Dick-and Harry security snafu/hack that comes down the pike.

Other sources say that the upcoming Vista Premium Home edition will provide some of this functionality but the real deal due next year would slap some of that atop the Longhorn kernel.

There will be several Longhorn deliverables, including a small biz "Fresno" server detailed in CRN last week.

Can Microsoft make it big(ger) in the home entertainment biz? Send me your take at: [email protected]