Microsoft Windows Thin PC – a solution only a mother could love

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.

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Simon Bramfitt

Simon Bramfitt

Simon is an independent industry analyst covering enterprise desktop, mobile and application virtualization, delivery and management technologies. He is an experienced solutions architect with unmatched insight into the challenges of designing large (200,000 seat plus) high availability presentation and desktop virtualization systems. Simon was invited to join the Citrix Technology Professionals (CTP) group in May 2010 and joined the Virtualization Practice in September 2010

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  • Andrew Wood

    Andrew Wood

    February 21, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    I think that’s a tad harsh to be honest.

    I’d say a failing of WinFLP was that “not many people wanted thin clients” the server based computing move wasn’t a huge exodus away from desktops, and when an enterprise did – it was often to move to thin clients. WinFLP wrong place, wrong time.

    I do see interest with customers wanting to do something with the XP devices as thin-clients, but not wanting to carry on with XP; which even though its going to carry on until 2014 doesn’t have that “new” feel. The existing PCs might not be young pups, but there’s life in those old dogs yet and if they could be taught a few new tricks that’d be handy. Especially as some of the new remote protocols rely on a bit of intelligence on the desktop that may well be served by an OS.

    Why not just get a thin client? because a thin client costs $2-300. Why incur that cost when I don’t have to. More importantly, why buy that when I don’t have the cash anyway?

    Now, there are some great tools for converting a desktop to “be a thin client” but as you rightly point out, this offering from MS is effectively free. I’m than happy to accept that the “freeness” isn’t anything clever or special and for this I’d suggest its less to do with keeping a device on a desk than it for maintaining the impression that there is a justification for having SA – “the bigger the list of things you get with SA the better”: never mind the quality – look at the portion size..

  • Simon Bramfitt

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