Microsoft last week announced that the Windows NT Embedded 4.0 operating system will run on Windows terminals. But users and analysts aren't sure how valuable or successful the more powerful and more costly thin-client operating system will be.
Microsoft said the NT thin clients are coming from several vendors early next year and will provide higher performance than thin clients running Windows CE. The Windows-based Terminal Professional, a thin client running NT Embedded 4.0, will support the Internet Explorer 5.0 browser and streaming media, Microsoft said.
Meanwhile, Compaq announced it will ship a line of thin clients later this month that run both lite versions of Windows as a way to give customers more choices. Details weren't announced.
Managers at companies using thin clients welcomed the news of more options, but they weren't sure how important NT will be in thin clients. `Having the latest, [operating system] is always important, but I can't really see how multimedia would matter to us,' said Diana Lorti, contract administrator at Phoenix-based Chambers Electronic Communications LLC. She said she needs more cost and functionality details to judge its efficiency.
The company had about 20 IBM Network Stations thin clients with no bays or hard drives installed about two years ago for use by project managers and accountants.
Dirk Drews, a manager at West Bend Mutual Insurance, said innovations in thin clients from Microsoft such as the NT operating system are potentially important as his company considers a thin-client approach for up to 600 independent agents.
`I don't think NT Embedded will do very well, partly because it's expected to be more expensive than Windows CE,' said Kimball Brown, an analyst at Dataquest in San Jose. `Actually, both NT Embedded and CE are brain-dead,' Brown said, `because they compete against free operating systems.'
Greg Blatnik, an analyst at Zona Research in California, also said NT Embedded will cost considerably more than CE because it's an advanced operating system compared with the entry-level CE, although cost figures aren't available. But Blatnik predicted that some users will want NT Embedded because they need the power to run a browser locally.