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Microsoft Releases Windows Thin PC

Microsoft today released Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) to its volume licensing customers with Software Assurance.

The solution is also available to Microsoft's TechNet and MSDN subscribers. It also can be downloaded by Microsoft partners with silver and gold competencies in desktop and virtualization specialties. Volume licensing customers can get WinTPC here. There's also a free 90-day trial version available at the WinTPC home page.

WinTPC is virtual desktop infrastructure technology that's based on Microsoft's Windows Embedded Standard 7 codebase. The WinTPC offering is designed to let organizations with older PCs continue to use that hardware, repurposing it as thin clients running a "stripped down" version of Windows 7.

Last month, Microsoft announced that WinTPC had hit the "release-to-manufacturing" stage, meaning that the solution was complete and ready for commercial use. This time, the software is at "general availability" status, ready for use by those organizations with the Software Assurance licensing to use it.

Microsoft's Software Assurance is an annuity licensing option that promises product upgrades within a specific contract period, and it also provides access to educational materials. In addition to access to WinTPC use, Software Assurance adds access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack suite of tools. (For a detailed analysis of Software Assurance's benefits and limitations, see this article by Microsoft licensing expert and independent consultant Paul DeGroot.)

Organizations that don't have Software Assurance licensing in place, as well as Windows 7 licensing for their PCs (which is required to run WinTPC), have a couple of other ways to license and use WinTPC. They can subscribe to Windows Intune, a software-as-a-service PC management offering from Microsoft, which grants Software Assurance benefits. Secondly, they can purchase a Windows Virtual Desktop Access license, which also bears Software Assurance rights.

The general availability release of WinTPC now includes Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 support, which comes with the latest rollup of that client security solution from Microsoft. Other security features are included with WinTPC, including BitLocker and AppLocker protection for hard drives and apps, respectively. In addition, WinTPC offers a smaller footprint to ward off attacks. Writes to disks on clients are precluded via write filter security technology offered with WinTPC.

Microsoft also announced today that Deluxe Corp. has been using WinTPC. The company, known for its check printing business, moved to WinTPC because replacing its poor-performing PCs with new ones "would have been too costly," according to Microsoft's case study.

Those wanting to use WinTPC need to know that it has restrictions on the applications that can be used. The only applications supported by WinTPC are those that can run on terminal emulation and Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services, plus apps based on the .NET Framework and Java Virtual Machine. Productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office, aren't supported, according to Microsoft's WinTPC FAQ (PDF).

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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