More than a year after Microsoft first discussed the product, Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition has been released to manufacturing.
This allowed Citrix to launch its Metaframe add-on, and thin client vendors such as NCD, Wyse and Boundless to introduce the first Windows Based Terminals (WBTs).
The announcements were made at the PC Expo trade show, which opened in New York on Tuesday.
Terminal Server, formerly codenamed Hydra, is based on the multiuser NT technology Microsoft licensed last year from Citrix. But Microsoft opted to develop its own protocol, RDP, to access Terminal Server ? rather than Citrix? established ICA protocol. Windows Based Terminals (WBTs), devices designed especially to access Terminal Server, run a special version of Windows CE, the cutdown version of the OS.
Remarkably enough, the new product, at $1,129 for a 10-user version, will be priced exactly the same as the regular version of NT Server 4.0. But while Microsoft is giving away the razor, the blades are priced higher than many had expected. For every installed client system, customers must purchase a Windows NT client licence, at $269, as well as a 'Windows NT Server 4.0 File and Print Client Access Licence', at $39.95.
This price would make a $700 WBT running Windows CE marginally more expensive than a bargain basement PC running Windows 98.
And the pricing structure means Microsoft actually makes more money on a WBT than on a full blown Windows NT system ? because of the additional $39.95 charge for file and print access.
Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition will be for sale by July. In NT 5.0, which is expected to ship some time next year, Terminal Server will be a standard component.
Also at PC Expo, Citrix announced general availability of Metaframe, which adds security, manageability and scalability features, as well as support for ICA, to Terminal Server.
Metaframe is the successor to Citrix Winframe, which was based on NT 3.5. But unlike Winframe, Metaframe requires Terminal Server.
The ICA support in Metaframe opens Terminal Server up to existing ICA based thin clients, as well as to other non-Windows devices such as older MS-Dos PCs, Macintoshes and Unix workstations.
Metaframe supports load balancing over multiple NT servers, a feature not present in Terminal Server.
But all these extra features will come at a hefty premium. A licence for 15 concurrent users is priced at $4,995, with additional client licences priced at about $200, depending on quantity. On top of that, customers must still pay the full purchase price of NT Server and the $269 NT client licence.
Several thin client vendors, including NCD, Wyse, Tektronix, Boundless and Neoware, introduced WBTs designed to access Terminal Server. Most support both RDP and ICA protocols and sport prices between $600 and $800 (without a monitor).
The first generation of WBTs are mostly built using non-Intel processors such as Mips R4000 derivatives. However, NCD also announced the Thinstar 300, which sports a 133MHz Intel Pentium as well as Universal Serial Bus connectivity and 16-bit audio. The system is based on Intel?s Lean Client design. NCD intends to sell them under its own brand name and through OEMs.
Terminal Server and the WBT were conceived by Microsoft as a response to the network computer or NC, as proposed by Oracle?s Larry Ellison and Sun?s Scott McNealy. But ironically, the NC hype has died down before Terminal Server has even hit the stores, probably accounting for the low key roll-out at PC Expo.
Network computers have so far been a disappointment, with only IBM managing to ship a meaningful number. According to Zona Research, only 347,917 thin clients were shipped in 1997. The majority of these were ICA based terminals, which outsold Java-based NCs.
Market research firm IDC estimates that NCs and WBTs together will reach sales of seven million by 2002. More than five million of these will be WBTs, IDC predicts.
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