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Microsoft Bullish on Thin Clients Using Windows Embedded

Microsoft sees next-generation thin clients making a comeback in the enterprise based on its Windows Embedded Standard 7 operating system.

Alexa Barron, a Microsoft product manager for thin client and Windows Embedded Standard, explained the rationale in a Microsoft-produced Q&A, published on Thursday. She provided a definition for thin clients, explaining that "thin clients are low-footprint devices built on embedded systems that are able to run limited applications and are network connected."

OEMs currently using Windows Embedded Standard 7 to build thin-client devices include Wyse Technology and Hewlett-Packard (t5740e Flexible Series). The componentized OS for devices was released to manufacturers back in April.

Barron laid out a few reasons why Windows Embedded Standard 7 will play a role in boosting thin-client use. Organizations will be able to tap features and management capabilities enabled by the OS, she explained. One of those capabilities is DirectAccess, which enables remote access to servers without using a virtual private network. The AppLocker feature can provide security to devices by locking down changes to an application. IT pros also have access to identity management through Active Directory and can control installs and patching through System Center Configuration Manager.

Using thin-client devices might not mean having to use thin apps. Microsoft claims that its RemoteFX technology will enable its graphics-intensive Windows Aero user experience and the running of rich applications on thin-client devices. Such rich applications may include full-motion video and three-dimensional graphics accessed from a remote server. However to get RemoteFX capability, organizations need Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1. Microsoft released SP1 on Wednesday to its TechNet and MSDN subscribers, as well as to its volume licensing customers.

Microsoft also is readying its Windows Embedded Compact 7 componentized OS, which is currently available as a community technology preview release. It's aimed for use on devices with specialized uses, such as thin clients for retail, manufacturing and nursing tasks. Windows Embedded Compact 7 works with Remote Desktop Protocol 7.1, Microsoft AirSync and Microsoft Exchange.

Microsoft also plans to offer a locked-down, smaller footprint version of Windows 7 for thin clients called "Windows Thin PC" (WinTPC) in the first quarter of this year. WinTPC technology enables remote access on thin-client devices in a Windows 7 virtual desktop infrastructure scenario. The offering is the Windows 7-based successor to Microsoft's Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP), which had been based on Windows XP.

There is no relationship between WinTPC and RemoteFX. WinTPC is a separate product with different licensing. Users of WinTPC need to have Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing option in place to use it.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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