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Details of the thin server that Microsoft president Steve Ballmer announced last week at the WinHEC are, well, thin. It is clearly a genuflexion to Linux servers, and does not even seem to have reached the Slideware phase yet: it's just NameWare so far, to wit EasyPC. Nevertheless, Ballmer was confident it would be delivered in the second half of this year, although Microsoft apologists are already suggesting that volume shipments will be next year. Microsoft will be pricing itself out of the market (guesses are in the $1500 to $2000 range, which is 30 per cent too high), since leaks suggest it will have NT server. It is expected that it will have a Celeron, a second hard drive for backup, a 56kbps modem, and some "self-healing" properties (presumably a reboot button). As the venture is a joint one with Intel, we know where the motherboards will be made, but quite how it will be sold is not known yet. It was noteworthy that during the trial, the DoJ did not produce any significant evidence that Microsoft's influence on hardware design constrains and distorts the industry. There are ways to achieve what is needed in the shape of agreed standards without the proprietary PC99 spec. Microsoft is adamant that there will be no certification, and more darkly is hinting at no Windows licensing, for any OEM that includes an ISA bus, however deviously this is done. The PC98 spec kept an ISA slot for "legacy" peripherals. One devious approach that has been hinted up by Micah Stroud of Creative Labs (where about a quarter of its cards are still ISA) is to have audio on the motherboard initially, and then refresh or swap the board to get ISA on a card. Microsoft has said the deadline for enforcement is 1 July. Consumers still want ISA cards, it seems, although the volume saving to OEMs with PCI is only around $1.50. ®

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