Microsoft this week announced the publicly available release candidate (RC) version of its upcoming Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) system, a thin client version of Windows that will replace Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP). WinTPC is designed for corporate customers that would like to re-purpose aging PCs as thin clients while retaining the full functionality and feature set of Windows 7, Microsoft's latest desktop OS.
"Customers like the reduced footprint of WinTPC," Microsoft's Karri Alexion-Tiernan wrote in a blog post announcing the RC. "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. 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. And they're also pleased they can leverage their existing System Center products for management and deployment."
Microsoft previously offered WinFLP back in 2006. That product, however, was based on Windows XP Embedded—not the then-forthcoming Windows Vista, which required a bigger hardware footprint than its predecessor. With WinTPC, Microsoft is pushing truly modern Windows features to legacy PCs that act as thin clients, for the first time.
So, as expected, WinTPC comes with a number of enhancements over its predecessor. It can be locked down in interesting ways, including preventing the user from writing to the disk at all, making the system ideal for educational and kiosk environments as well as corporate settings. (The final version will require a Software Assurance—SA—volume license contract with Microsoft but won't require a Windows Virtual Desktop Access—VDA—license, which Microsoft currently provides to businesses using existing thin client solutions.)
WinTPC does require a modern server infrastructure. It utilizes the RemoteFX technology present in Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1, providing the full Aero glass UI and other advanced graphics capabilities to desktops. It includes full access to Windows 7 functionality like advanced power management, AppLocker, BitLocker, and so on. And as noted above, it can be easily deployed using System Center Configuration Manager and other enterprise-oriented deployment tools.
WinTPC's hardware requirements are decidedly low-end: It requires a 1GHz or faster CPU (32-bit or 64-bit), 1GB of RAM, just 16GB of available hard drive space, and a bootable DVD drive.
I'll try to post a WinTPC screenshot gallery to the SuperSite for Windows later today. If you're interested in evaluating the RC, head over to the Microsoft Connect website, log on, search for "Windows Thin PC," and then add it to your list of available programs.