Microsoft Enhances Terminal Services with TSAC

This newsletter is aimed at end users, so I tend to avoid material of interest primarily to network administrators; this week I make an exception. Microsoft has released Windows Terminal Services Advanced Client (TSAC). TSAC is implemented as an ActiveX control, which means you can put a window containing a Windows 2000 Terminal Server-hosted program on a Web page. Any client computer that can execute the ActiveX control can view that Web page. In practice, "client computer" means a PC running Win2K, Windows NT, or Windows 9x, but given time, I expect other systems will be able to view the page as well.

Why do I find this development significant? Terminal Services is a fantastic shortcut for people who need to deploy features of Win2K Active Directory (AD) but aren't willing to make a wholesale commitment to Win2K on both servers and desktops. Terminal Services is also a great administrative tool, giving system administrators the ability to get a window into the server console from any station on the network. TSAC extends this capability: Imagine being able to access your server console from any PC with a Web browser. On the other hand, imagine some 16-year-old kid hacking your server console from any PC with a Web browser (Hint: before implementing TSAC, take a long, hard look at server security!). You can find details about TSAC here.

I'm fascinated by the implications of TSAC for the issue of thin-client vs. fat-client computing. It's interesting to note that Microsoft, which has long been seen as the great proponent of fat-client computing, is now at the bleeding edge of thin-client technology—and not just where Win2K is concerned. Click here, to look at Microsoft's recent announcement about a Windows CE-based MSN Companion device. It's basically a consumer thin-client device—exactly the sort of thing that Oracle's Larry Ellison predicted back in the heyday of the late, unlamented, network computer.

Speaking of Mr. Ellison, in the unlikely event that you've missed it, he's been on television lately defending some of his company's more—er—unique business practices. Among other things, Oracle admits to hiring a private detective agency to sift through trash at the offices of Microsoft allies. No, I'm not making this up! For Microsoft's official response to Oracle's admission, click here.

As a technology reporter, I'm not sure how to explain the irrational bitterness between Oracle and Microsoft—my last psychology class was back in the '80s. But I can and will try to make sense of how technologies such as TSAC and Microsoft's new .NET strategy (see last week's Windows 2000 Pro UPDATE) affect end users. I'll be spending next week in Orlando at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) looking for just that sort of information. Look for a report from the PDC show floor next week. In the meantime, check out TSAC—and if your company has ever said anything nice about Microsoft, maybe you'd better lock up your trash!

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