Microsoft announces Windows terminal plan

LAS VEGAS - At Comdex last month Microsoft Corp. launched the beta version of a Windows-based terminal server designed to address the total cost of ownership issue by giving multiple thin clients the ability to simultaneously access Windows applications from a Windows NT server.

The multiuser operating system code-named Hydra is aimed at lowering hardware and maintenance costs by using thin clients such as terminals and network computers (NCs) that have no hard drive and no drives for CD-ROMs or floppy disks. The devices will require as little as 4M of RAM and 4M of ROM and are expected to be priced from $500 to $800. Hydra based on software that Microsoft licensed from Citrix Systems Inc. is widely seen as Microsoft's answer to Java-oriented NCs which will be designed to run server-based Java applets as opposed to client applications based on Microsoft operating systems.

Citrix has its own multiuser NT server called WinFrame based on NT 3.51. In his keynote address at Comdex Microsoft chairman and chief executive officer Bill Gates said Hydra is better than Java-based NCs which will require applications to be downloaded to the user's desktop. Running the browser on the desktop involves so much processing overhead that it defeats the thin-client strategy Gates said. To truly achieve a thin client "You have to take the execution of the browser and other things and move it back to the center " he said.

Microsoft announced the beta version of Hydra at Comdex in Las Vegas and five vendors announced plans to supply devices that support the Windows-based terminal server: Network Computing Devices Inc. Boundless Technologies Inc. Neoware Systems Inc. (formerly HDS Network Systems Inc.) Tektronix Inc. and Wyse Technology Inc. Microsoft said it would ship Hydra in the second quarter of 1998.

Although the solution offers IS managers a chance to save on hardware and on management costs it will have no impact on licensing meaning that users will be required to have a license for every application they access the company said. John Biasi director of application strategies at the Hurwitz Group a Framingham Mass.-based consulting firm said the technology "is a lot better than an NC option because you are using software that you are familiar with and trained on." While not necessarily suited for everybody Hydra is a viable solution for users working on the same three or four applications all the time Biasi said.

According to the companies involved Hydra users will be able to link multiple terminals - estimates go as high as 35 - on a network to the server using either the T.Share protocol developed by Microsoft or Citrix Systems's pICAsso protocol a beta version of which also was announced at Comdex.In either case only the application's user interface is sent down to the terminal everything else runs on the server. However to the user the application will look and respond as if it were executing on the desktop. Extending Hydra Citrix worked with Microsoft to develop the pICAsso software incorporating Citrix's Independent Computing Architecture protocol which extends Hydra to a broad range of hardware and software that is not 32-bit for Windows.

Microsoft's T.Share the other protocol designed to deliver the interface to the desktop is expected to provide more functionality including sound and improved video. IS managers will realize a savings because they will have only one machine to manage: the server said Ka Wai Leung NCD marketing manager for the terminal developed by the company. Terminals running applications off an NT server could be ideal for government agencies that do not want to deploy PCs at every desktop said Michael Stebel vice president of marketing for Boundless.

It also resolves concerns about viruses security and space because the devices do not have floppy or CD-ROM drives and are as small as a thick hard-bound book. "All the companies and government agencies we are talking to are trying to reduce costs by making their employees more productive " said R. Lee Rainey program director of video data services at Tektronix. "As taxpayers we all know the government needs to try to save money and do more with less."Tektronix has negotiated installing a system at a civilian agency that would use thin-client terminals to assist people who are seeking information Rainey said.

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