Microsoft Plans Lean Version of XP

Companies with aging PCs running old and often unsupported versions of Windows will get a stripped-down operating system option from Microsoft Corp. at an undetermined future date.

Microsoft last week confirmed plans to develop a lean version of Windows XP, code-named Eiger. The release will be targeted at government agencies and large businesses that are concerned about the security and manageability of PCs running Windows NT 4.0 and older versions of the operating system, said Barry Goffe, a group product manager for Windows client software.

Goffe said buying new PCs is the best way to address those concerns, but he added that Eiger should help users who aren't in a position to purchase hardware. Eiger will take Windows XP Service Pack 2 as its starting point and make use of tools built for Windows XP Embedded to add and remove functionality, he said. "You can almost think of Eiger as a hybrid between the two," Goffe noted.

Goffe said Eiger is being designed to run six types of applications: Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, a remote desktop client for accessing Windows Terminal Services, a third-party terminal services client, mainframe emulation software from other vendors and a mix of management and security tools.

The stripped-down operating system isn't intended to run major business applications or productivity software such as Office, although Goffe noted that users could access Outlook and Word through Terminal Services software. He added that Eiger breaks from the classic thin-client mold in that it won't be a single-purpose offering for terminal services and will require patching.

"It's thinner than XP, but it's not a thin client, because it will still need a lot of care and feeding," said Gartner Inc. analyst Michael Silver.

Microsoft is "just about" ready to send a technical preview of Eiger to a small number of customers for initial testing, said Goffe. He added that it's too early to say when Eiger will ship and that he doesn't know how the product will be priced or distributed.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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