Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) is now offering Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) to volume licensing customers with Software Assurance (SA) subscriptions, but there are still ways for non-SA customers to kick the tires on the software, which allows older PCs to be used as thin clients.
MSDN and TechNet members receive WinTPC as part of their subscriptions, as do channel partners that have attained Silver or Gold status in the Microsoft Partner Network desktop and virtualization competencies. Windows Intune and Windows VDA subscriptions both come with SA. And organizations that aren't ready to commit to SA can download a 90-day trial version of WinTPC from Microsoft's Web site, Karri Alexion-Tiernan, director of product management for Microsoft Desktop Virtualization, said in a recent blog post.
WinTPC is a smaller-footprint, locked down version of Windows that runs a limited set of applications, including security, management, terminal emulation, Remote Desktop and similar technologies. In Q3, Microsoft will add Forefront Endpoint Protection support to the WinTPC mix.
Jeff Middleton, a Microsoft Small Business Server MVP (Most Valuable Professional) based in Metairie, La., says Windows ThinPC is a way for Microsoft to remove the barrier of hardware cost from the VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) equation.
"They're just eliminating the question of any hardware acquisition cost in the discussion," he said. "To me it's just another form of shelf-space marketing -- Microsoft intends to be considered for a deployment opportunity even if there is no hardware change involved."
"It makes sense to recognize that many entry level markets, emerging technology country markets and even enterprise markets can be addressed by just getting a consistent client to server connection, regardless of the hardware," Middleton added.
WinTPC could help smooth the path for customers considering Microsoft virtualization, but the SA requirement could be problematic for smaller organizations that can't afford it. SA gives customers the right to upgrade to new software versions released during the term of the contract with Microsoft and to spread payments over a three-year period.
Last July, Microsoft stopped requiring Windows Client Software Assurance customers to buy a separate license to access Windows in a VDI environment, and added virtual desktop access rights to Software Assurance.
WinTPC is another example of Microsoft sweetening the pot for SA, and Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft partner, says it could help Microsoft lure more VDI customers.
"What it really comes down to is, if you're talking about a total virtualization solution, you need to make sure you are covering the thin client," he said. "WinTPC is the next logical step and it certainly makes VDI a bit easier and more attractive."