Microsoft's stripped-down Windows 7, WinTPC, stripped of value

Microsoft's Windows Thin PC will give customers a stripped-down version of Windows 7 to run on legacy hardware—as long as they have Software Assurance. But is it worth it?

Have you heard of Microsoft Windows Fundamentals? It's a stripped-down version of Windows XP that has been designed to run on older computers that don't have the horsepower to run "real" versions of Windows.

In a blog post last week by Microsoft's Gavriella Schuster, we learned that the company is planning to update Windows Fundamentals to Windows 7 Service Pack 1. This new version will be known as "Windows Thin PC" (or "WinTPC") instead of Windows Fundamentals.

From Schuster's post: "WinTPC is a smaller footprint, locked down version of Windows 7, designed to allow customers to repurpose their existing PCs as thin clients."

Understanding this description is important, because even though WinTPC has "thin" in the name, it is not "Windows for thin clients." (Of course, Microsoft does have a Windows product for thin clients, but it's called Windows Embedded, not Windows Thin PC.)

Like Windows Fundamentals before it, WinTPC will also not be available for sale to normal people. Instead, it's a "benefit" of Software Assurance (SA). Remember how SA works? You pay Microsoft a fixed amount of money per PC per year for access to all the latest and greatest Microsoft software. That's fine if you have new computers that can use such software. But if you have older clients, then you'll probably say, "Yeah, no thanks."

Not wanting to lose out on any potential revenue, Microsoft created this stripped-down, locked-down version of Windows to allow older clients to connect to its latest operating system via virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or Remote Desktop Session Host. (This gives Microsoft another angle to lock customers into an SA-only benefit that they'll have to renew into perpetuity to enjoy.)

Microsoft claims one of the benefits of WinTPC is that it "will not require the Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license that regular thin clients will need to access VDI desktops." You may think that this is cool at first, until you realize that since WinTPC is only accessible for devices that are covered by SA, this is moot because the license to access a remote Windows desktop is already a benefit of SA.

Regardless of whether or not you see the value in WinTCP, it's real and will be available later this quarter. And if you've bought SA for desktops that can't run Windows, and you can't use Windows XP, and you don't want to use Windows Embedded, well ... then I guess WinTPC is for you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

This was first published in February 2011

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