“Tens of thousands” Windows Home Servers sold

Windows Home Server

Steven VanRoekel is quoted by Cnet commenting on the initial sales of Windows Home Server: “It’s definitely tens of thousands, which in a month and a half is good”

I deal with managers all day long so let me try to help you with what I’ve so far coined as:

Middle-managers Counting System

The following conversion chart helps convert middle-manager numbers into real world numbers based on the circumstance the manager is in (bragging vs. defending.)

Middle Manager – Reality

When talking about things positive for the company:
Some, most, plenty, lots – 0
Successful – 0
Everyone – (everyone I know outside of our own company) – One person
Tens of thousands – Two people
Millions – Three people, from different companies

When talking about the install base:
Some – 0
We don’t report numbers – 0, and the two dudes that bought it asked for their money back.
Runaway success – 1 person that wrote in something positive about the product. (ToDo: Case Study)
Mass appeal – “We have it on good authority that a girl installed our software. I don’t know if she’s hot.”

When talking about things that are negative for the company:
Lots – 100% customer base
Some – 50% customer base
Very limited exposure – 30% customer base
A few cases – 20% customer base
Virtually none – 10% customer base
Absolutely zero – 9% customer base

And of course, the one even I have used:
Still investigating the issue – 100% customer base, 100% shipped product that is not yet installed, and we’re pretty sure 80% of the issue is not going to be fixed in the next relase either. Oh god, tell me Live.com is still hiring.

So what did Steven actually say, when put through the DeManagerLiser:

“I think we burned 20,000 DVD’s, half of which shipped to HP, Sony and discount software warehouses. The rest we expect to offer up as confetti to the CES organizers”

Here is problem with WHS that I believe CNET didn’t address: Backups are not sexy. When you design an appliance that is not sexy, it doesn’t sell well. And when even that killer feature that you pitch turns out to be faulty, people switch. So far WHS has done more for Linux and Windows Media Center than it has done for its own brand, at least with the tens of thousands (two people) that I’ve talked to about it.

Has the file corruption on a file server you bought to protect your family treasures been big enough to destroy WHS? I doubt it. But here are five things WHS can do to get to that 4.5 million sales in the next month. Yes, month:

1. Gateway Mode – Turn the Windows Home Server into the family gateway, armed with parental controls and AD-like policy management for web site blocking, report computers.
2. Microsoft iTunes – Family collection of shared MP3s, videos, etc availabe for sync to an iPod or the two Zune users.

And the sexy stuff:
3. Play XBOX game backups stored on the WHS.
4. Media streamer hooked into Youtube.com. This alone ought to be enough to kill Apple TV.
5. TV Interface – It’s in the living room, right? So why not let it work with the TV instead of forcing a client (Vista/Xbox) on it?

I think the WHS concept falls apart on the company culture. When I first told Kevin Beares that I just didn’t get the hoopla over the WHS and asked him how this was any better than a networked USB drive he went on to list a bunch of things that I couldn’t even begin to translate to a consumer. So I told him we’d look at WHS only as a SOHO business solution.

What I think really killed it for me, and what I am sure many of you will agreee with me on, is that this product is way too Microsoft Business to be used by a family. Kevin told me that everyone inside of Microsoft loved it and used it. Well, yeah, no shit, this is an awesome geek toy. But a consumer device it is not. You can see the Microsoft Business dry look and feel in the remote access features alone – way too much SharePoint 1.0 look, virtually void of any positive consumer experience – Excel 2007 stylesheets have more consumer appeal than the file listings. Not even a slideshow. No image previews…

I like WHS. But I hope WHS team is hard at work with a shippable SP1 this month. Yes, this month, because time is short. Because if all you do is appeal to geeks, geeks that now have a spare box in their home that doesn’t seem to do any more good to them than a file server with a file corruption bug, you’re going to be losing that spare box to a Windows 2008 server, Cougar or whatever else that “box” can be repurposed to. Heck, most geeks reformat and reinstall their main dekstops more than a few times a year, so if you want to solidify your current install base it needs to be more than just a limited-use/limited-appeal proposal.

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