A slightly thinner Microsoft
April 19, 2005
According to Steven Bink in Amsterdam, Microsoft is preparing two new versions of Windows XP designed to run thin-client desktop computers. (Thin clients resemble old-fashioned dumb terminals - they draw on central servers for much of their computing power, storage and software. Because they're stripped-down machines, with tiny hard drives and little memory, they're cheaper to buy and maintain - and also more secure - than traditional PCs.) Code-named Mönch (thin) and Eiger (thinner), these much-rumored operating systems will not only be able to be used to run new thin-client or low-end desktops, but they'll also give new life to old PCs that otherwise might have gone into landfills. That's good news for schools, governments and capital-constrained businesses - and, indeed, for any company looking to make efficient use of its assets.
Back in January, I wrote a column for BusinessWeek Online arguing that traditional office PCs were becoming obsolete. Their capabilities now far outstrip the needs of most workers, and they're a nuisance to maintain and a big security risk. Thin-client sales, I pointed out, are now growing much faster than PC sales. My article seemed to get Bill Gates's dander up, as he wrote a rebuttal which argued, in essence, that the PC Age has only just begun. Gates obviously has a strong attachment to PCs - their proliferation is what made his company so successful - but in pursuing the thin-client market, Microsoft is wisely hedging its bets.
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