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Windows Thin PC Details Revealed

A Microsoft representative noted late last week that the company  is planning two new options for IT organizations using Windows 7, but the catch is that Software Assurance (SA) licensing needs to be in place.

One of the additions will be thin-client virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology for Windows 7 that Microsoft plans to roll out in the first quarter of this year. The company also is planning a new way for IT pros to manage BitLocker disk encryption, a feature available to users of the Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate editions.

The BitLocker management capability will be called "Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring." MBAM, as its known, will be designed to "help simplify BitLocker provisioning and deployment," according to Gavriella Schuster, general manager for Windows commercial business, in a blog post. Windows 7 customers with access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, a benefit of SA licensing, will be able to use MBAM.

Microsoft plans to roll out an MBAM beta in March through its Microsoft Connect portal, and those interested can sign up to be notified here (requires a Windows Live ID).

The upcoming thin-client VDI technology is called "Windows Thin PC," or "WinTPC," according to Schuster. She described WinTPC as "a smaller footprint, locked down version of Windows 7, designed to allow customers to repurpose their existing PCs as thin clients."

Microsoft already sweetened the deal somewhat for SA licensees back in July, when it extended VDI use rights as part of SA licensing benefits. At the same time, Microsoft also announced a Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) subscription for those using thin-client devices. The VDA license is an extra cost because the use of thin clients for VDI deployments isn't included as a benefit of SA licensing.

Schuster clarified that future users of WinTPC technology won't have to buy a VDA license: "PCs with WinTPC will not require the VDA license that regular thin clients will need to access VDI desktops," she explained in the blog.

Veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley received an update from Microsoft indicating that a public beta of WinTPC will be released via the Microsoft Connect portal. However, no release date for the beta was indicated.

Microsoft also provided Foley with some clarifications about the confusing licensing details and explained that WinTPC follows in the tradition of Microsoft's Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP), which is a thin-client OS said to be based on Windows XP Embedded that's offered through SA licensing.

"WinTPC is the next revision to WinFLP," a Microsoft spokesperson explained. "WinFLP is based on the Windows XP SP3 platform, whereas WinTPC is based on the Windows 7 platform. 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."

Microsoft did announce last week that Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 were released to manufacturers. SP1 contains cumulative updates for Windows 7, but not much more. However, a Windows blog did indicate that the service pack "includes client-side support for RemoteFX and Dynamic Memory which are two new virtualization features enabled in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1."

RemoteFX technology will enable thin clients to remotely access graphics-intensive applications using Remote Desktop Services and Windows 7 desktop virtualization on thin-client devices. However, whether or not users licensed to use RemoteFX technology will need WinTPC technology or licensing wasn't made clear in Schuster's brief comments.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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