Microsoft has added a new member to its thin-client terminal family, Windows-Based Terminal Professional (WBT Pro). WBT Pro is based on Windows NT Embedded 4.0. Previous versions of Microsoft’s original thin-client terminal, WBT Standard, used Windows CE. According to Microsoft, the company made this move in response to customers who wanted to lower server loads and improve solution scalability.
In thin-client/server computing, the OS captures only keystrokes and mouse movements on the client side, transmits this information to the server, and returns only bitmapped graphics to the client. Under this model, the server stores the applications and provides most of the processing power. This approach reduces the expense of desktops and provides centralized systems management, which is the key factor in reducing total cost of ownership (TCO). For example, an IT staff can simply upgrade a few copies of the latest Web browser software that resides on a server farm instead of rolling out new software to a multitude of desktops.
WBT Pro has two important new features: the presence of a fully local Internet Explorer (IE) 5.0 browser and support for streaming media. According to Dave Pollon, Microsoft Business and Enterprise Division product manager, the company released WBT Pro in response to "increasing requests by customers for a platform for a higher-end terminal." Pollon added that WBT Standard functions best when you have a high-bandwidth network available; WBT Pro is for performance in environments when you don’t have a high-bandwidth network," said Pollon.
With the release of WBT Pro, Microsoft also added SNMP manageability, which lets you manage hardware devices from a remote console. SNMP is a feature of NT, but not a feature of WBT Standard. Compaq is the first big OEM to announce that it will provide WBT Pro machines. Pollon estimated that we will see broad commercial availability of WBT Pro machines by the first quarter of the next calendar year.
Apparently, Microsoft has discovered that its thin-client solution is, for some consumers, too thin. The new product covers a middle ground, between the wholly desktop-centric model of traditional networking and the ultra server-centric model of WBT Standard. The move underscores the fact that the two teams developing Windows CE and NT Embedded have relatively free reign to compete with one another and establish separate market niches even when their products compete in those markets.
To summarize, Microsoft makes the following distinctions between thin-client types:
• Windows-based Terminal Professional. This client uses NT Embedded 4.0 and offers higher performance than other thin clients. It includes IE 5.0 browser software and streaming media on the client side. Microsoft will release Windows-based Terminal Professional in the first quarter 2000.
• Windows-based Terminal Standard. This client uses Windows CE. It's ideal for low-cost terminal use where the server performs the application processing. Terminals built for use with Windows Terminal Services (WTS) are based on this standard.
• Windows-based Mobile Terminal. This client uses the Windows CE-based Handheld PC Professional Edition OS. It will run 32-bit Windows-based applications when connected to Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition, over either wired or wireless LAN or dial-up connections. When you disconnect a Mobile Terminal, users can continue to access local data and Windows CE-based applications.
You can read the Microsoft press release announcing WBT Pro at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/1999/Sept99/TerminalProfPR.htm.