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Yet another MS Windows – NT in a server appliance

Take NT Embedded, add Intel appliance design, fluff-up, write press release...

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Yet another version of Windows? Microsoft today unveiled one it prepared earlier, Windows for Express Networks 1.0. From a company that has in the past gone on the record as saying it gets its products right when they've got a 3 in front of them, this may be a reckless designation, but WEN (is this a ship-date joke?) is actually based on NT Embedded, so it has more provenance than you'd initially think. As Microsoft tells it, WEN is a server appliance based on NT Embedded, and is being released to OEMs today - so it's a reference design/spec, right? Coincidentally - not - the first OEM will be Intel, which itself has announced "two versions of the Intel InBusiness Small Office Network," sealed, multifunction appliances priced at $1,499 and $1,999. The big one has data mirroring capabilities and faster CPU, and the option to add DSL or ISDN shortly. But come on readers, can you spot the embroidery? Intel has been happily shipping InBusiness server appliance gear for small businesses for some considerable time now, so in this area could be termed home of the Intel-based reference design, right? But Intel's previous versions haven't used Microsoft operating systems. They've used classic embedded OSes, VXWorks, for example. Not only that, but when Intel first took the wraps off server appliances the company made it abundantly clear that the classic Microsoft NT network licensing scheme would not be welcome in the server appliance arena. There would be no 'per seat' licence, the buyers could just pay the one-off price for the gear and plug in. So we can presume that Microsoft, in order to stop small business custom escaping, has swallowed that particular camel. There's certainly no mention of licensing in the announcement, although Microsoft says WEN offers "easy-to-use, highly reliable shared file, print and secure Internet access for small businesses with up to 25 personal computers." We suspicious types wouldn't be at all surprised if the 25 turned out to be hard-wired. We'd also guess, as was the case with a number of previous "joint" projects, Intel did most of the work on the spec. But Microsoft may have paid a high price in order to get into the tent. There are a lot of businesses out there with 25 PCs or less, and historically these have been a target for NT. Unsurprisingly Microsoft hasn't been overwhelmed by a stampede of small businesses determined to give it thousands of dollars in exchange for fiendishly complicated NT server and BackOffice systems, but perhaps WEN can be seen as Microsoft accepting that they're never, ever going to do so. ®

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