Todd Headrick of Microsoft’s Windows Home Server team (hi, Todd!) has an interesting post on the official WHS blog, asking for thoughts on whether the next version should be split into Basic and Advanced versions:
we are back in the product planning phase and culling through all of these suggestions. What if we had 2 versions of Windows Home Server – one for the "basic" household and one for the more "advanced" household. What should we think about using as limits for the number of users and computers for a "basic" version and for an "advanced" version?
For me, the answer is easy. Please, please, please do not release a separate SKU. The basic product allows you to connect up to 10 computers and have 10 user accounts. The product is built on Windows Server 2003, which already has the capability to accommodate additional users by adding licenses. So find a way to let me buy an addition 5-pack or 10-pack of licenses for that server for a reasonable price ($10 per seat sounds about right).
The trouble with splitting into different versions is that the temptation to start segmenting features becomes irresistible. Oh, you want the Frammis service? You’ll have to upgrade to the advanced version. Arrrggghhh!
The original design philosophy of Windows Home Server was (and still is) to be a device that is simple to set up and use and whose functionality can be extended with add-ins and services. For a refresher in that design philosophy, go back and read this post from Charlie Kindel of the WHS team. Although it applies to the storage subsystem, the concepts apply equally to the rest of the product. Here are the first two bullet points from that list:
Must be extremely simple to use. Must not add any new concepts or terminology average consumers would not understand. Simple operations should be simple and there should not be any complex operations.
Must be infinitely & transparently extendible. Users should be able to just plug in more hard drives and the amount of storage available should just grow accordingly. There should be no arbitrary limits to the kinds of hard drives used. Users should be able to plug in any number of drives. Different brands, sizes, and technologies should be able to be mixed without the user having to worry about details.
Those are really good ideas. Please keep it simple, folks.