Microsoft's announcement in January that it would release its Windows Home Server operating system in late 2007 has enticed Hewlett-Packard and Gateway to announce plans to roll out hardware, but Dell has decided to sit out the launch.
The worldwide computer sales leader said it believes consumers are savvy enough to understand the benefits of having a home server, but Dell is not certain such a device is truly needed by the average home owner.
"Does the main family PC just become the server? That is the philosophical discussion that still has to take place," he said, pointing out that adding a server to a home means a family has another piece of equipment that must be properly maintained and operated," said Lane McCullough, Dell's desktop product manager.
Steve Baker, NPD's industry analysis VP, said there will be an opportunity for server devices in the consumer market, but he expects a slow initial adoption rate. This situation will change as homes begin to contain more networked devices that will require a central controller, he said.
Dell's reticence has had no impact on the other industry PC leaders. HP was the first to sign on and demonstrated its home server at International CES in January and Gateway joined up in May announcing it would launch a product when Microsoft has finalized the software, which is still expected to take place later this year, said Marc Tanguay, Gateway's senior group manager for servers and storage.
HP and Gateway cited data back up as a primary selling feature for home servers, but Tangquay added photo and video sharing via public folders, remote access and, in the future, distribute entertainment around a home content as key buying features.
HP's two initial models will each have four hard drive bays with the 500GB model coming with a single-500GB drive pre-installed, leaving three empty drives; while the 1TB model will have two 500GB drives. The server's total capacity is 6TB when all the bays are filled with 750GB drives and four external 750GB hard drives are connected via the four USB 2.0 ports.
The server is run by AMD 1.8 GHZ 64-bit Sempron processor and it comes with gigabit Ethernet networking. The server can be shared by up to 10 users and it is bundled with Windows Media Connect to stream video and music to the networked computers or TV. Pricing has not been set.
Gateway is expected to give out product specifics and pricing in the coming weeks, but Tangquay generally described a model that would have simple expandable storage, an appealing industrial design allowing the unit to be kept in the living room and its price would fall in the range of a network attached storage device.
Gateway is considering creating two versions of its home server, one for the consumer market and another for small businesses. Tangquay said a business model would only require a few tweaks, such as improved email capability.
Storage maker LaCie has also signed on as a hardware launch partner, but has not given out any product details. Several software publishers have also issued statements saying they will develop software for the Home Server operating system.