Attached as a footnote to last week’s big news of Windows 7 SP1 being released to manufacture, Microsoft also announced a new lightweight edition of Windows 7. Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) is in many respects a Windows 7-based update of Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP), a lightweight locked down version of Windows XP SP3 that was offered to enterprise customers as an encouragement to get them to migrate away from Windows 2000 without the cost of performing a hardware refresh at the same time.
As with WinFLP, Microsoft is advertising that’s WinTPC will ” allow customers to re-purpose their existing PCs as thin clients”, although as with WinFLP it isn’t clear how many of Microsoft’s customers will follow this instruction and use it as advertised. Describing WinTPC as a thin client replacement oversells it somewhat. Considering that the primary benefits of thin client devices are their low power consumption, low security exposure and limited management needs, a legacy PC running WinTPC is a poor substitute for a genuine thin client.
Microsoft it is claiming that one of the benefits of WinTPC is that it does not require a Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license, which is a little puzzling given that WinTPC is only available to Software Assurance holders and one of the additional rights granted to Software Assurance holders is that they don’t need a Windows VDA license. It would not be too unfair to suggest that the only reason that Microsoft is offering WinTPC as a “benefit” to Software Assurance holders is that if anyone was asked to pay for it they would go out and buy a real thin client instead. Still, if you are particularly concerned about any remaining security weaknesses in Windows XP but do not have the budget for a hardware refresh this year then WinTPC might just make sense. Of course this presupposes that you run (almost) all of your applications using either Remote Desktop Services or use server hosted virtual desktops, because there doesn’t seem to be any use case beyond that, and if that is true then once again you would be better off with a real thin client.
Perhaps the real story is that WinTPC gives Microsoft a bridging solution that’s keeps a PC on the desktop until Microsoft decides what it wants to do about desktop virtualization.