Well...it was bound to happen.
Most of us know that the only real way to get an idea of how well a piece of software will meet our requirements is to get an evaluation copy and put it through its paces. When it comes to certain categories of software (servers, professional graphics editors, etc.), having an "eval copy" isn't just nice to have - it's absolutely essential.
Microsoft has recently released Windows Home Server 2011. It's a very powerful package that makes sense for a lot of people and small offices. But if potential customers were expecting to download a 90-day evaluation copy like Microsoft made available for the previous version, they're going to be very disappointed.
Because there isn't going to be one.
According to Microsoft's blog
(see below-emphasis added), licensing restrictions with some of the included codecs prevents them from providing evaluation software for WHS 2011.
Today I am pleased to say the online evaluation experience for WHS 2011 is now ready. This provides customers the ability to walk through both client and server interaction freely, or follow a suggested demonstration path with the evaluation manual which will also launch with the online experience. Available 24 hours per day, it provides a super simple way to experience WHS without the need for hardware,
Try it out for yourself on our temporary launching site at http://online.holsys...com/portals/sbs/whs/. Over the next few weeks we will be updating the WHS ms.com website in line with many of our partner GA’s activities and have a full introduction portal to the online experience.
Let me preempt one immediate question I am sure will be asked – When can I download an evaluation version so I can test at home on my own hardware? The answer to this is that we are not currently planning to release a downloadable evaluation version. Some of the embedded third-party codecs we use within WHS 2011 do not allow us to provide a trial version due to licensing agreements. As a result we can only offer an online experience. We are still working with many of our OEM’s on additional evaluation experiences and may have more information in the future on other ways to trial WHS 2011.
I think it's a little disingenuous on Microsoft's part to make it seem like they're being held hostage by this. Bill Gate's Monster has enough financial resources, technical clout, and market penetration, that I have trouble believing any
software publisher would try to do anything
to jeopardize their relationship with Microsoft. Especially if their codec or software was being embedded in a Microsoft product.
There's enough other companies that want "in" that Microsoft can pretty much dictate whatever terms it wants. Any holdouts run the risk of being replaced with another product - or even worse - motivating Microsoft to come up with something of it's own to replace it.
Even the mighty Adobe at the height of its power (when it owned the desktop publishing market) learned the hard way what can happen if you try to push Microsoft too hard on something as basic as font licenses. TrueType wasn't chosen because Microsoft wanted an alternate technology, or to do business with Apple. It was chosen because Microsoft couldn't get Adobe to agree on what it considered acceptable licensing terms for its Postscript technology..
So I'm fairly certain this codec licensing restriction is only a restriction because Microsoft chooses to let it remain one. Hardly a surprise coming from a publisher of closed-source proprietary software who has a vested interest in supporting restrictive licensing terms whenever possible.
Either way, if you want to evaluate WHS2011, and you aren't a partner (or don't have a MS software subscription), it looks like you're S.O.L. and stuck with an online simulator
to play with. At least for the foreseeable future.
Be interesting to see if this practice catches on. With dynamic cloud getting cheaper and cheaper, this may be where it all ends up going - and hasta la bye-bye
to evaluation software.
What do you think?