Microsoft Developing XP Client for Old PCs

Thursday, Microsoft announced a slimmed down version of Windows XP for PCs with older hardware code-named "Eiger." Eiger blends together Windows XP and Windows Embedded to offer a thin client for terminal servers that provides the manageability and security enhancements of Windows XP.

With Eiger, the network is the computer. Eiger transforms desktops into terminals that run applications from servers such as Citrix's MetaFrame. Microsoft is positing Eiger as a migration path to the full-fledged version of Windows XP and as a stopping point on the way to its upcoming Longhorn operating system.

Customers can configure Eiger to run either: Microsoft terminal services, third-party terminal services, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, mainframe terminal emulation or management/security applications.

"Eiger is in the very early stages of product development and testing," a Microsoft spokesperson told BetaNews. "Microsoft believes that the best solution for customers with older hardware and an older operating system is to upgrade to the latest generation of hardware and to Windows XP.

"For those customers that are unable to do so, Microsoft is working to ensure they will have a good solution to incrementally improve their infrastructure."

Despite its instance that customers upgrade, Microsoft does have an audience for Eiger. Jupiter surveys has found that 35 percent of business with 10,000 employees or more continue to operate Windows NT Workstation and 31 percent still use Windows 98 on the desktop.

"Too many companies focus on cost containment rather than looking at technology as a means of improving productivity or operational efficiency. Then there is the old, 'If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,' attitude. I disagree and would strongly encourage every company running pre-Windows 2000 OSes to make the upgrade, whatever the cost," said Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox, who first reported on Eiger.

"These customers' resistance is Microsoft's problem. Microsoft gets the blame for security breaches, even though these companies foolishly run operating systems with architectures predate the Internet. Then there is the secondary problem of greater resistance over time, as newer Windows versions make upgrades potentially all the more a burden for the organization."

Wilcox dismissed speculation that Redmond was reacting to the anxieties its faces from the competitive threat of Linux. Instead he reasoned that the change that Microsoft's image could be tarnished by security exploits targeting these older platforms was its primary motivation.

"The risk isn't so much that these businesses might soon switch to Linux as they would continue to do nothing at all," said Wilcox. "And if a big company won't spend $400 or $500 on a new managed computer and associated, additional deployment costs, why would it put in Linux and take on potentially greater costs associated with people; how are IT management and end-user training for starters?"

Microsoft has not said when it will ship Eiger.

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