Microsoft Desktop Virtualization Takes Shape With Windows Thin PC

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More than 12,000 customers and partners have signed up for the WinTPC Technology Preview program, Karri Alexion-Tiernan, director of product management for Microsoft Desktop Virtualization, said in a Monday blog post.

Microsoft is betting that as virtualization continues to consolidate the data center, thin clients will become the new desktop. Windows Thin PC (WinTPC), a small-footprint, locked down version of Windows 7 that organizations can use to repurpose existing desktop and notebook PCs as thin clients, is Microsoft's bid to get customers on board with its vision.

Customers like the reduced footprint of WinTPC, particularly in cases where their existing PC don't have much free disk space, said Alexion-Tiernan. And they can handle management and deployment of WinTPC thin clients through System Center. If they kick the tires in WinTPC and decide they don't like it, customers can roll their thin clients back to ordinary PCs.

Microsoft unveiled a community technology preview of WinTPC in March, touting its smaller attack surface and use of write filters to prevent any applications or data from being stored on the hard drive. RemoteFX, a set of desktop virtualization features that allow video and other rich content to be delivered to desktop, laptop and thin client devices, is another key addition.

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RemoteFX, added in Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1, essentially "time-slices" the graphics processor installed in a server and divvies its power to virtual desktop instances managed by Hyper-V.

PCs with WinTPC don't require the Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license that Microsoft requires for regular thin clients to access VDI desktops. However, WinTPC does require Software Assurance, a volume licensing program that lets customer upgrade to new software that's released during the term of their contract with Microsoft, and to spread payments over a three-year period.