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Microsoft aims thin clients at the classroom

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Updated With today's talk of application and desktop virtualization, it's easy to forget there's another, older way to deliver software in a controlled way to resource-constrained PCs: thin-clients.

You remember thin client computing: Citirx, Microsoft's Citrix-backed Windows Terminal Services, Sun Microsystems' Sun Ray, and Tarantella, which was bought and filed away by Sun.

Microsoft has now repackaged Windows Terminal Services (WTS), offering students a thin-client platform that uses Windows Server 2008 R2. Dubbed Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, it was released on Wednesday.

Announced last year, the system connects up to 10 PCs to a host machine running Windows MultiPoint Server via Remote Desktop Services (the new name for WTS). This is what a Microsoft spokesperson called its "flagship" product in the MultiPoint brand, that includes MultiPoint Mouse SDK and Mouse Mischief.

The server is only available via OEMs, here, or under Microsoft's Academic Volume Licensing program.

Microsoft said the server was delivered in response to request from teachers and institutions to "bring more modern computing access to education institutions with constrained budgets."

Microsoft has done plenty in recent years to make Windows available to students and institutions in developed and emerging markets at prices that are lower compared to what it charges regular consumers or businesses. Recently, for example, students were offered deep discounts on Windows 7.

But MultiPoint comes with a restricted computing experience. You won't get Windows 7 tools such as Aero, Windows Flip, Task Bar Previews, or Windows Media Center.

Microsoft will go some way to helping students and teachers from both a fiscal and set-up perspective while also helping itself to a future generation of computer users. However, the offer of a limited Windows computing experience also leaves the way open for Apple and Linux on the desktop to provide systems that don't set restrictions on what young users can experience and achieve. ®

This article as been updated to clarify MultiPoint Server is available either from OEMs or under Microsoft's Academic Volume Licensing, and that MultiPoint Server joins other MultiPoint products from Microsoft.

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