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Ready To Tinker With Microsoft Home Server?

Microsoft  has a new toy for you 21st century Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor types: a beta version of software developer kit (SDK) documentation for Windows Home Server.

The SDK documentation is designed to provide instruction to software developers looking to build applications on Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Home Server.

With an increasing number of multiple PC homes –- 50 million worldwide by Microsoft's estimation –- file sharing, storage and backup have become more challenging. So is setting up a server, particularly for the generation with VCRs blinking "12:00."

Windows Home Server is geared to offer the basic server functions of automated backups, remote accessibility, and file-sharing integration with the Xbox 360 and Zune music player.

But it will also serve as an "always on" device for automating computing resources and activities in the home, which could be its real appeal, according to analyst Rob Enderle.

"There are a whole lot of people building proprietary stuff for home automation who don't have a common platform, and they are the ones who are the most excited about this server," Enderle told internetnews.com.

"They see this as a more reliable platform for stuff that might otherwise end up on your PC and end up running less reliably as a result," he added.

The SDK is meant for programmers and hobbyists alike to build applications that run on Windows Home Server and extend the functionality of the Windows Home Server Console, or to build applications that run on a home computer and connect to Windows Home Server.

The SDK documents the application programming interface and services in Windows and the Home Server, and while it is integrated with Microsoft's Visual Studio development toolkit, it will work with any integrated development environment (IDE) .

"Microsoft has Visual Studio Express for students and non-professional developers who write for fun. We think that's the same type of person who will be interested in this, so we want to enable them with the SDK to write applications beyond the general server functions," Charlie Kindel, general manager of Windows Home Server for Microsoft, told internetnews.com.

Kindel points out that there already exists a similar community of developers for the Windows Media Center, called The Green Button. So he expects similar interest in the Home Server. "It's an important market because these enthusiasts are very influential," he said.

The Home Server idea sure beats using your PC to run home automation, said Enderle.

"It allows you to have something you know will be there and will be on and the user won't mess with. No one is downloading software on it, no one is running apps on it, no one is updating and potentially causing a conflict," he said.

The final version of the SDK is due in second half of 2007, just like the server, which is currently in beta 2.