Rumours that Microsoft is planning to unveil a home media server at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas are starting to intensify.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is expected to show off a device that stores and distributes digital content between devices in a house, acting as a server and storage appliance.
The stand-alone device could act as a storage or back-up appliance as well as a networking hub. It is believed to allow PCs, wireless devices, Media Center PCs and set-top boxes to link up on the same network.
The pending launch is further supported by the fact that several industry analysts declined to discuss a Microsoft media server citing "confidentially agreements".
Analysts are typically briefed ahead of major product launches but are bound to non-disclosure agreements.
All the analysts contacted by vnunet.com agreed that the time was right for a home server to be introduced.
As mobile devices, network-equipped gaming consoles and set-top media boxes become more common, a device that can link up and facilitate networking between devices becomes necessary, explained Stephen Baker, director of technology analysis at NPD Techworld.
"Clearly those intermediate devices, the plumbing that is going to make home networks go, needs to start to work in a much better way," Baker told vnunet.com.
With the explosion in podcasts, digital photography and video editing, home users have been generating far more digital content than ever before.
"It is the right moment for someone to come up with a way for consumers to manage their digital content," Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research, told vnunet.com.
"Consumers are creating their own media hubs in their house, but have no way to back them up."
Analysts suggested that a secure, reliable back-up device which is not subject to the system instabilities and security threats of a home PC would provide a welcome solution for a growing number of home network users.
"If you have something at the home, it should be something that's relatively safe from viruses or kids," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
"It's where you're keeping all your high-value data, and it makes sense to have it on something like a server."
One source familiar with the matter expects early versions of the device to cost several thousand dollars.
While Enderle would not speculate on the price of a specific Microsoft home server product, he did say that it would have to cost no more than $600 to appeal to a wide audience.
"Getting an entry price that's much above $500 makes it difficult. The volume is going to exist at US$500 and below," he said.
Gates's keynote is scheduled to open CES two days before Apple chief executive Steve Jobs delivers the opening keynote at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco.
Jobs is expected to provide an update on the status of Apple's US$300 iTV, which will use either land-line or wireless networking to stream data from a home computer to a TV.
If Microsoft announces a home server on Sunday, it could steal much of the iTV's thunder.
But Enderle warned against rushing any devices to market. "The real question is which company will get it right first," he said.
A Microsoft spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Microsoft home server rumours grow
By Shaun Nichols on Jan 8, 2007 9:39AM