Microsoft is planning to make available to its Software Assurance volume licensing customers a smaller footprint, locked-down version of Windows 7 that functions as a thin client.
Microsoft officials announced the coming Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) SKU on February 9, simultaneous with the company's announcement that it had released to manufacturing the first Service Pack (SP) for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
According to the company, WinTPC will "allow customers to repurpose their existing PCs as thin clients" once it is available for download from the Microsoft Connect test site later in the first calendar quarter of 2011. (I am thinking this will be a beta/test version of WinTPC, given it will be on Connect. I've asked Microsoft to clarify. Update: Yes, this will be a public beta of WinTPC on Connect, officials said on February 10.)
"PCs with WinTPC will not require the VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) license that regular thin clients will need to access VDI desktops," explained Windows Commercial General Manager Gavriella Schuster in a new post to the Microsoft "Windows for Your Business" blog.
Part of SP1 of Windows Server 2008 R2 is new technology from Microsoft (via its Calista acquisition) known as RemoteFX. RemoteFX is designed to allow users to work remotely in a Windows Aero desktop environment, doing everything from watching full-motion videos, to viewing Silverlight animations, to running 3D applications “all with the fidelity of a local-like performance," Microsoft execs have said. Windows 7 SP1 client PCs can make use of RemoteFX, turning them into hosted thin clients which are linked back to a centralized datacenter. Or, as Microsoft officials explained to me on February 10, "WinTPC will have support for RemoteFX, ie, the remote desktop client in WinTPC will be able to decode RemoteFX data."
This isn't the first time that Microsoft has offered customers a thin-client option. With Vista, Microsoft added a new licensing option, known as "Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop" (VECD) for $23 per desktop for clients covered by Software Assurance. (Remember WinFLP -- Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs?) I've asked Microsoft whether the new WinTPC offering is different in any substantial ways from its Vista predecessor and will update this post once I get an answer.
Update: "WinTPC is the next revision to WinFLP. WinFLP is based on the Windows XP SP3 platform, whereas WinTPC is based on the Windows 7 platform," a spokesperson said. However, WinTPC is not related to VECD. "Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) is very different from WinTPC. VECD was a software license that enabled licensed devices to access a Windows VDI desktop. WinTPC is a Software Assurance benefit and a locked down, smaller footprint version of the windows 7 OS that is designed to help repurpose PCs as thin clients," the spokesperson said.
Anyone out there with Software Assurance interested in WinTPC? If you aren't a Software Assurance user, would WinTPC win you over?