Microsoft has issued a Release Candidate for Windows Thin PC, a platform that allows users to "repurpose" their PCs into thin clients running a locked-down version of Windows 7.
"Customers like the reduced footprint of WinTPC. The machines they will likely use it on often have less disk space than brand-new machines, and WinTPC helps to ensure they will have adequate space," Karri Alexion-Tiernan, Microsoft's director of product management for desktop virtualization, wrote in a May 2 posting on The Windows Blog. "They also like the write filters which are helping customers to secure the device running WinTPC by preventing them from saving data or installing applications locally."
That being said, Microsoft evidently pictures WinTPC as a means of transition to a true thin-client platform. "Once WinTPC device hardware gets decommissioned," reads a note on the company's WinTPC page, "customers can then purchase new Windows Embedded Thin Clients from our OEM partners without having to make changes to their existing management and security policies."
Microsoft has been working to make thin clients more palatable for general work environments, working with companies such as Wyse Technology to leverage the form-factor beyond its traditional niche in places such as call centers. Certainly, a locked-down version of Windows Embedded Standard 7 could be put to use in areas as diverse as health care and financial services, provided it was modified to suit the needs of those particular verticals.
Given the cost of deploying and managing traditional PCs in the workplace, certainly any number of IT administrators are paying attention to the potential benefits of thin clients-or even "zero client" solutions that connect a monitor back to a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) or similar data center infrastructure. In addition to Wyse Technology, ClearCube and a handful of other companies are exploring various ways to bring this zero-client paradigm into the enterprise.
In the case of WinTPC, users can revert the machines back to PCs, if necessary, allowing IT managers to evaluate whether a thin-client environment is best for their company without embarking on a more radical refresh. WinTPC also does not require the Windows VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) license associated with thin clients. However, those with VDA on their Windows PCs, along with those with a Software Assurance agreement, will be able to deploy WinTPC to their environments following the RTM (Release to Manufacturing).
According to Alexion-Tiernan, Microsoft will issue that RTM by the end of the second quarter of this year.