I recently had the opportunity to discuss Windows Home Server with Charlie Kindel, Microsoft’s General Manager for the Windows Home Server product. We had an email dialogue, followed by a phone conversation. I’ve pulled together four posts based on our dialogue. I hope to fill in a few areas where the publically available information is a little thin. This is part 3 of a 4 part series. (Links to Part 1, Part 2)
Business / Marketing
RH: Why did you decide to keep it under wraps? Other than some comments by Bob Muglia and Paul Thurrott, this was extremely stealthy compared to most other Microsoft projects. How did you pull it off?
CEK: From the very beginning we knew the concept was a “big idea”. We felt it was important that our initial disclosure had “pop” and the only way to achieve that was through keeping it a secret as long as possible and then having a significant announcement event.
The fact that literally thousands of Microsoft employees have known about “Q” for more than 2 years, and the fact that have an internal Beta program with hundreds of participants is a testament to the integrity and spirit of Microsoft employees. We were very open with them about our plans, and simply (frequently) requested that they honor what we were trying to accomplish and keep the secret. They did. I’ve been at Microsoft over 16 years and I pretty much love this company. I’m proud of many things we’ve accomplished as a company, but one of the things I am now most proud of is the way our employees dealt with the “secret of Q”. I especially love the fact that this is in stark contrast to how other companies work to keep secrets.
RH: How did Home Server get started? Was it a top-down strategic push, or was there a lower level champion for the idea?
CEK: Egads. This is a long story that I am working on writing up for a blog post on my blog. The short story is: It started from the bottom up back in 1999 when I was running the Consumer Windows home networking team. Windows Home Server is my fourth attempt to get it done at Microsoft (Quattro means 4 in Italian). Those 8 years of effort created both a groundswell of grass roots interest as well as an understanding of the strategic and visionary importance from the top.
RH: We’ve heard about HP. I know you probably can’t name specific OEMs, but can you give an estimate as to the number of OEMs that will be on board when this launches? Are we going to see something from the likes of Dell or Gateway?
CEK: We are not prepared to say anything more than we said in our announcement at CES at this time.
RH: Have you thought about developing a certification program for certifying installers to set this up for people who are still intimidated?
I tried to get some more details out of Charlie regarding future plans and features. Charlie indicated that while they have a lot of ideas that they would like to address beyond version one of Windows Home Server, they are really trying to wait to see how the market reacts to the product, and get feedback from real customers before they make decisions. Beyond that they are very focused on getting V1 out the door.
I also asked if they might be looking at a different SKU for the SOHO market that would make use of the technology they have developed for Home Server. Charlie explained that the Home Office market is one of the areas they are trying to serve with WHS. Basically if a business is being run out of the home, it can take advantage of all of the features of WHS.