It's been nearly a year since Microsoft first announced its Windows Home Server platform and, although the OEM software has been available for a little over a month now, Hewlett Packard today became the first vendor to put out hardware preloaded with the new operating system.

The idea behind the Windows Home Server platform is to give users access to the features of having an ordinary server without needing the expertise to deal with it. That way, users can share files, automatically perform backups every night and stream media content to networked PCs and other domestic media devices.

Although HPs MediaSmart Home Server will not begin shipping until later this month, it is now available for pre-order priced at $599 for the 500GB version and $749 for the 1TB version. Other manufacturers getting ready to roll out servers running WHS include Velocity Micro, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Iomega and Medion AG. Those who want to try to Windows Home Server before investing in a machine can order a 120-day free trial from Microsoft.