Microsoft credits/blames user feedback for latest Home Server delay

Actual Beta News feature bannerIt's beginning to be a habit: In the short history of Microsoft's surprisingly popular Windows Home Server product, its first two major upgrades (each with truckloads of bug fixes), called Power Packs, suffered from delays -- especially after Microsoft heavily promoted their upcoming release. Monday evening, it happened again: After what appeared to be a successful launch event at the CEDIA 2009 expo in Atlanta last week, Microsoft announced that Power Pack 3's release is now slated for toward the end of this year.

That's bad news for many customers who had been planning to upgrade their home systems to Windows 7. There are a number of features in the current Windows Home Server Power Pack 2, designed for Vista, that do not work properly in Windows 7, especially with respect to backup -- one of the main reasons to use Home Server in the first place. PP3 was supposed to include the fixes that make it compatible with Win7's completely revised backup, and last week, at least, they looked pretty good.

There is only one way that Microsoft could have made the situation worse for Home Server users, and that is by making it appear that they were the reason for the delay. But that's what product representative Nicole Berett implied in a statement on one of the company's blogs last night.

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"The bottom line is that we've gotten tremendous feedback (and test coverage) from you, our enthusiasts, around Power Pack 3 -- and we couldn't be more excited," Berett wrote, invoking one of those euphemisms that have come to be associated with letdowns. "This being said, our top priority is to ensure the absolute highest level of product quality, and to this end, we will continue with additional testing of the software. As with past software releases, our team will not ship the official final release of Power Pack 3 until the community has validated our work. We expect to deliver before the end of the year."

Berett went on to say that the latest beta of PP3 does appear to resolve the main Windows 7 incompatibility issues, including the ability to do a full "bare metal restore," and enabling Win7 clients to wake up automatically to perform overnight backups. But with GA day for Windows 7 still set at October 22, Home Server users may be stuck using the PP3 beta for at least another three months.

The only real clue as to why this latest delay is occurring, if the issue is not technical, comes from the fact that suddenly there are two Windows Home Server blogs. The one that had been kept up by the engineering team, through TechNet, this morning deferred the bad news announcement (wisely) to this new one maintained by the marketing team. The old blog's community lead, Kevin Beares, foreshadowed a likely transition of power to marketing with an ominous sounding blog post yesterday that contained the following: "In the near future, we may make a complete move from our TechNet location to the Windows Team Blog. Stay tuned..."

There is only one way that Microsoft could have made the situation even worse for itself than this: Early this morning, in an coincidental move that surely could not be blamed on him, another marketing team member on a separate section of the Windows Team Blog stressed the vital importance of all of Microsoft's partners getting products for Windows 7 ready on time, in a post praising his team's Windows 7 Logo program.

"The Compatible With Windows 7 Logo is designed to help customers make better purchase decisions by identifying products that have passed Microsoft designed tests for compatibility and reliability with Windows 7," wrote senior director for strategy Mark Relph. "Since we designed Windows 7 to be compatible with the products you use every day, many of these products will just work and thousands of partners are committing to meeting an even higher quality bar."

As it turns out, though, it will be Microsoft itself that will fail to meet many of Relph's goals, with one of Windows 7's major supporting products probably missing the holiday shopping rush.

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