Interesting debate that Robert Scoble’s started.

I have to come clean and say that I’ve not been overwhelmed with the quality of Microsoft’s marketing for quite a while – I’ve often found their brand strategy confusing (MSN vs Windows Live anyone?), their product naming unwieldly, and uninspiring to say the least, and for me personally, I find their advertising (particularly TV) seriously cheesy. But they have one of their biggest challenges ahead of them with Home Server.

Here’s a product class that firmly sits in the workplace (with a few geeky exceptions!) but not overtly in the workplace like Windows XP, or Office apps – stuff you spend more time with than your family. Servers may not even sit in your building – how many people even get to see one?

Even for “enthusiasts” like me, Servers are swathed in IT Magic [tm] – the secret stuff in the basement they don’t let you play with. They can save you, (“Don’t worry, it’ll be backed up on the server”) or destroy you, (“You won’t be able to access the powerpoint you need for the really really important meeting you’re going to, the server’s gone down”) – you never get to see them, but other people tell you they really are there – Servers? They’re a bit like God.

Scoble’s point is that the hardcore server community already have a server at home, and that his aunt would love one, but would be expecting some chap in a black suit called “Jeeves” to turn up, rather than a slab of plastic and a bunch of wires. I don’t think he’s got the point, though – Home Server (at this stage at least) isn’t for his aunt, and it isn’t for him. It’s for me. I’m somewhere in the middle of Scoble and his Aunt, I guess. A couple of PCs knocking around – ever-growing mp3 and digital photo collections, definitely no regular backups happening in THIS house – After me,  it’s for the people I talk to.  I think MS knows that. The problem is, I don’t really know what a server really is, so I need some education as well as persuasion. But you know, I’m not Scoble’s Aunt, so quit it with the spoof doctors already! There’s a sweet spot you’re going to have to find with your communications – clear, yes. Clearification, no.

The community blogs I’ve read so far are talking a lot about seriously geeky stuff – without a doubt, there’ll be a great developer community for MS to look after. But for me? I’m really interested in what Home Server could do for me, and better still, what disasters will confront me if I don’t – it’s not a product (right now) that I really want to dig into. When it comes down to it, it’s something I just want to set and forget.

So, a message to MS – if you want me, you have to sell me salvation – just don’t make me have to read a 2000 page book and go to church every day to get it.

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