Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

Summary: 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 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?

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    This will be huge for the banking industry....
    • Reusing old PCs as thin clients?

      Really? When purpose built thin clients cost a couple of hundred dollars, are lower power and solid state?

      The product is better targeted to the uninformed government dePartments.
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

        @Richard Flude
        my brother works for the FBI...based on his description of what they have that would work for them as well.
      • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

        @Richard Flude

        Thin clients with RemoteFX support tend to be at the higher end of the price range, and each one presumably requires a VDA licence as well. Power savings might pay off eventually, but it would take some time.

        Using existing hardware would certainly be a safer and cheaper option for an initial roll-out of thin clients. If they work well, they could potentially be replaced by dedicated hardware with VDA licences at the next upgrade cycle (or by new PCs running as thin clients).
      • You've no idea how cheap volume PCs are then?

        @Richard Flude <br><br>We've stopped installing Sun thin clients as we can buy HP desktops for less through volume buying once you add in the VDU, mouse, keyboard etc. I suspect your "few hundred dollar" example isn't like for like.<br><br>The power use is important to me but not so much a company. At the end of the day I can choose to use the box as full PC, thinclient, or rebuild quickly as required. The thin client is a one-trick pony and too expensive for what it is.
      • And more step up

        No one in a market like banking is going to be that cost sensitive as to use an old PC as a thin client. <br><br>The cost of supporting a PC is such an environment is many multiples of the hardware price per year.
        Richard Flude
      • You know its all Loverock Davidsons fault thet were in the place were in

        don't you? Loverock davidson has screwed up Microsoft minds so much that they never recover from his blunders ..... god help Microsoft for letting Loverock Davidson get into their minds...................
        Over and Out
  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    Great product for those not needing a full PC or need the PC to be completely restricted. Definitely good for the banking industry, healthcare, DOD, name it.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    Wondering how this might play in a telework environment. Does this bode well for security in that scenario?
  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    Banking? ATM and Personal service kiosk would be using embedded Windows or Linux.

    Libraries and schools are probably two good markets
    • Ever heard of Bank Tellers?

      @Bookerman1 The last time I checked, banks have these employees called Bank Tellers that you go to when you want to make a deposit, withdrawal, open or close a new account. So yes, this would be great for them. Went to my bank the other day and noticed the PC's are still running Windows XP.
      Mr. Dee
  • Microsoft locks

    are made to be broken.
  • Software Assurance...

    ...what a scam.
  • I would think this is about service

    It's the ease of support that drives this, isn't it?

    Plus, a stripped down, dual-core Atom PC would work.
  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    OH! Another version. What a surprise. As usual a year late. No one in their right mind would subscribe to software assurance program.
  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    This is great to see!
  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    The trouble with the implementation of many "thin client" applications is they are really "fat client" implementations made to act like a thin client. One of the problems is with the rapidly changing face of Microsoft products which require developers to chase the Microsoft changes and have to modify their working fat client products while still trying to implement, modify, and try again to implement the thin client. I have seen this in the banking industry. At one point, the workstations had to have a terminal emulation program for some of the functions, a fat-client implementation of additional functions, and a fat implementation of what was being developed to eventually be a thin-client. All three had to be supported for a few years until the terminal emulation could be incorporated into the thin-client model. I have been out of the banking industry for a few years, so I don't know the current state of that mess, but it was quite a maze of a central mainframe emulation with a support server dedicated for each major banking function and many support applications on the workstations to implement the "thin-client". The Microsoft development appears to be more like the hobbyist approach where the developers almost seem to randomly change locations of key directories (where are the user directories this version?), complicate the structure of the Control Panel by changing names. I especially like the Windows 7 "Printers and Other Devices", which is not very informative. If you have printers and other devices, that pretty much covers all devices. And how about when you right click on the printer and you have the option of "Properties" and "Printer Properties".
    I realize I am ranting and wandering, but I guess what I am leading to is that a thin-client PC will probably have a somewhat limited following.
  • VDA Hurts - WinTPC is MS's Out

    When you are comparing a Wyse P20 @ $430 to an existing desktop that's 3-4 years old. This is an option.

    I'm a little concerned it's still beta. I've figured VDA fee a few months back meant MS had something up the sleeve for a while now.

    When you have SA for the OS on 2000 desktops but can't move that OS to a centralized location b/c the end point doesn't run windows is robbery. The best part is if the user is at home, VDA doesn't apply. What sense does that make when the user is on their own iPad? They might be at work...they might be at home... who knows... the organization doesn't even own the device! I mean really?

    The VDA fee is flawed in general but at least with WinTPC there is an out.

    Mind you, there is a big bundle of money if you don't use WinTPC... in our case 1000 desktops * 100/yr VDA = you get $100,000/yr extra cost... yeah... tell me you'll use wyse or something else when you get into hundreds of thousands a year... ;)
  • RE: Microsoft readies locked-down Windows 7 Thin PCs

    This is ideal for us school users, who have a crop of linux or XP based thin clients and old PCs. We can't afford to replace all our clients when new server side technologies appear, so things like this help us massively.
  • Good news

    I'm glad to see they're releasing a thin version of Windows 7. I'm sure companies that are just now deploying Windows 7 will be very interested in this.

    I wonder what sort of management tools will be available for it ...

    Trevor Sullivan