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Intel rolls out $699 thin server challenge to Microsoft

A 486 and an embedded OS - so who needs Exchange?

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Intel's first true 'thin server appliance' is to ship on 25 November at a street price of $699. With its thin server strategy, announced in September (Earlier story), the company intends to embed cheap, single purpose devices in networks, automating small businesses simply. The new InBusiness eMail Station is aimed at businesses with less than 50 employees, and is a paperback book sized plug-in device with a 486 CPU, and running WindRiver's VXWorks embedded operating system. According to Intel it takes 20 minutes to install, and can be used by small businesses to engage one primary ISP account for all the employees in the business. At the moment, says Intel, 80 per cent of small businesses run individual email accounts for their employees, so the eMail Station is intended to offer them a simple mail server in a box, downloading all mail then passing it on to individuals. It also includes remote dial-in access as standard. The choice of WindRiver and the price bracket are both ominous for Intel's erstwhile partner Microsoft. In defining thin server appliances, Intel specified that they should be single task devices with no functionality in excess of what was needed. They should have task-specific operating systems, and they shouldn't involve expensive per seat licensing fees. None of these requirements is fulfilled by a current Microsoft operating system. But the eMail Station, and no doubt other forthcoming devices in the range, poses a direct challenge to Microsoft's efforts to sell NT into the small business sector. Microsoft has been experiencing some cost- and complexity-linked consumer resistance here, and the new challenge from Intel could hurt. ® Click for more stories

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