In this edition of the mailbag: Whether Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) will be a free update, when Verizon will start selling a Windows Phone, confusion over Windows Home Server's support for domains, some Zune Pass questions, whether I'll be reviewing any Windows 7-based Slate PCs, whether the expiration of Microsoft's consent decree will make the company more aggressive, and my plans for migrating to the final version of Windows Home Server 2011.

Have a question? I can't guarantee an answer, but I'll try. Drop me a note! (And let me know if you'd prefer not to have your name published. I use first name last initial--like Paul T.--by default.)

Note: It's been over a month since the last Mailbag, sorry about that. I can't promise this will occur every week, but I'll try to keep this feature going more regularly. --Paul

Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango): Update or a New Product?

Andy B. asks:

I'm a little confused about what I read regarding Windows Phone's up-coming (Mango) update that you call version 7.5. Is this going to be an update to existing Windows Phone 7 users, or a whole new version of the OS, for a new version of the phone which we'll have to buy?

It will be made available to existing Windows Phone users for free.

That said, it's possible that certain Mango features will require (or work better with) new phones. For example, Mango will include support for a gyroscope, which isn't included in any current devices, and for a virtual sensor called the motion sensor, which works better when your device does have a gyroscope.

Windows Phone on Verizon?

Mike S. asks:

Any speculation on if Windows Phone 7 will ever hit Verizon?  The rumors were late March, is the delay related to slow release of "NoDo"?

No, the delays are not related to NoDo. It should happen this month, May at the latest.

The first Verizon-based Windows Phone is called the HTC Trophy, by the way.

Windows Home Server 2011 and Domains

Bernard V. asks:

I thought that [the big difference between] Windows Home Server and Small Business Server was the WHS did not have a domain yet my setup keeps insisting that I setup my domain.  I do have my own domain name but don't want to get into the extra cost associated with a certificate.  Am I missing something?

I mentioned in the March 2, 2011 Mailbag that WHS does not support domains, but these are "Active Directory domains," not domain names like those used on web sites and other Internet addresses. If you want to access your home server-based content from a web page, you need to set up a domain, i.e. a web site with a name (as opposed to just an IP address). It's optional, however.

So no version of WHS supports Active Directory domains. But this isn't the only real difference between the current versions (2011) of WHS and SBS Essentials. WHS is optimized for media sharing, so it includes DLNA-compatible media sharing capabilities that SBSE lacks.  And SBSE can be integrated with online services, like Office 365, in a way that is more compelling to businesses that might use each product. While I agree that a superset product might be interesting (SBSE with media capabilities, or perhaps WHS with domain support), I understand why Microsoft differentiates these products as they do.

Zune Pass Questions

Jay M. asks:

I am trying out the Zune Pass two week trial. If I download say 30-40 songs, when the two weeks is up, do all but 10 disappear? How does that work? And when they say I can stream music, does this means directly from the Zune Marketplace?

You get the 10 free songs per month when you subscribe to Zune Pass, but not for a trial subscription. But in that event, you'd have to manually choose and download the songs. It won't automatically choose which songs to download. But it's smart enough to replace the subscription songs with the downloaded ones in your library, however.

And yes, you can stream Zune Pass music from both the Marketplace and from the web.

So in the event of the 30 manually downloaded songs after i have joined and i decide to stop the subscription, do all but 10 songs stop working or do they get removed from my drive?

The 10 songs you "purchased" using your monthly 10-song credit are in DRM-free MP3 format and are yours to keep. The Zune Pass songs will be deleted over time and will stop playing once the subscription ends.

Windows-Based Slate?

Trinity asks:

What do you think about the new HP Slate 500 with Windows 7?

Atom processors are not interesting, and the battery life isn't great, so it's sort of a non-starter.

This is true of all current Windows 7-based tablets, sadly: They're just not interesting. But the HP Slate 500 is particularly bad. It includes a single core Atom, according to Intel, and that's beyond unacceptable these days. And while I don't expect any PC-based tablet to touch the iPad's 10 hours of battery life, I do think 5 hours is reasonable. HP says this PC gets 3 hours of battery life. I'm guessing its even less.

The search continues.

Will Consent Decree Expiration Make Microsoft More Aggressive?

David C. asks:

With Microsoft's anti-trust consent decree expiring next month, do you think Microsoft will get some fire back in its belly?

No, I think they've pretty much just settled into the new way of doing things. As important, its behavior is being watched very closely in the EU still. (And elsewhere, like Korea.)

I think the Microsoft you see today is they Microsoft we've got, at least while this leadership team is still in place.

Update on My Windows Home Server 2011 Plans

About a month ago, I wrote about my experiences migrating my Windows Home Server v1-based data to a new, Windows Home Server 2011 Release Candidate (RC)-based machine. It was a painful, time-consuming, and manual process. But since then I've received several emails from people asking about various aspects of the next steps in this process, since I'll need to move off the RC version at some point. Here's a quick update.

RC to RTM switch-over

I've got a couple of back-to-back business trips this month, and since the RC version of Windows Home Server 2011 doesn't expire until August, there's no big rush. But when I get back from Las Vegas this coming week, I'll wipe the home server and put the RTM version of WHS on there, and write something about the experience. My hope is that I can simply leave the data shares intact and then re-apply them to the new install. But I'll be backing up first, of course. You can't be too careful.

Cloud backup

A few weeks back, on the Windows Weekly podcast, I mentioned that I was investigating different cloud backup solutions for Windows Home Server 2011. Because I was looking for something that offered native support for WHS 2011, I had originally thought about going with KeepVault; though they're expensive. But based on overwhelming reader feedback--thanks to everyone that wrote in about this--I'll almost certainly be going with CrashPlan instead. This solution is very inexpensive ($50 per year for unlimited storage) and while they don't have a WHS add-in, they do very specifically support WHS.

So, it's too early to "recommend" this solution per se--I haven't even installed it yet, since I'm not yet on the RTM version of WHS 2011--but this is what I'll be using, at least at first. But it looks like it might be the way to go. More when it happens...