Think Big, Go Thin

REDMOND, Wash. — Feb. 17, 2011 — More and more enterprises operate in unique environments. Some organizations employ a growing number of mobile workers while others must adapt to strict compliance requirements and regulations. Whatever the business scenario, organizations today require comprehensive, high-performance and cost-effective solutions to meet the complex needs of diverse organizations — from government consultants to nursing stations and the manufacturing floor.

With that in mind, the Windows Embedded News Center (WENC) editorial staff recently sat down with Alexa Barron, product manager, Thin Client and Windows Embedded Standard at Microsoft Corp., to pick her brain regarding the evolving demand for thin-client devices and dissolve common myths associated with implementing these solutions.

WENC: What are the top three reasons to take advantage of thin-client devices running Windows Embedded operating systems?

Alexa: Technology is changing at a rapid pace, and with that enterprises are seeking out different solutions, whether it is in a hospital checking patient files or a government agency looking to protect the transmission of sensitive documents; for many, thin-client devices are the answer. Thin clients are low-footprint devices built on embedded systems that are able to run limited applications and are network connected. Thin clients built on Windows Embedded platforms provide users with the familiar functionality of the Windows interface, the rich user experiences they want and the ability to connect their thin-client devices with existing Microsoft infrastructures.

WENC: Are there specific industries or scenarios in the enterprise that are better suited for thin clients? If so, what are the key industries and why?

Alexa: Thin clients have a solution for just about any industry — to name a few, finance, government and medical all need a very efficient but secure network to transmit, display and filter information, all key benefits of thin-client devices. Thin clients allow for a high quantity of devices to be used and managed at one central location and are easy and inexpensive to replace.

In today’s world, security is the name of the game because information has become a commodity. Whether patient, educational or government records, the data must be protected. Windows Embedded works with partners, including Wyse and HP, to create thin-client devices with features that offer secure network access, such as AppLocker, which prevents unauthorized software from running, and BitLocker, which protects data, whether the information needs to be accessed throughout the office, hospital, satellite location or home.

There’s also a great need to find easy solutions for specific work functions where thin clients may be more efficient and cost effective to use than full-function solutions. Task workers, like retail salespeople, nurses or manufacturing floor managers, may need to do a specific function such as pull up patient information, look at sales figures or view production processes; in these instances, a thin-client device would be better suited to accomplish these tasks given the work environment.

WENC: What should enterprises consider or evaluate before implementing thin-client devices?

Alexa: Thin-client devices help enterprises address concerns of manageability and cost effectiveness. That being said, there’s not necessarily a checklist to go through when evaluating whether or not you should or shouldn’t implement thin-client solutions, but there are important questions you need to ask yourself about your business:

  • What is the ultimate goal of my business? Am I protecting, displaying or filtering information, and how am I transmitting this data?

  • How many employees do I have, and what does that translate to in terms of terminals and devices needed?

  • How much control over processes, computing and information displayed do I want?

  • What kind of server-based computing do I need — Session Virtualization? Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

  • Is there existing back-end infrastructure? Will thin clients integrate into that infrastructure seamlessly?

WENC: What features make Windows Embedded operating systems a top choice for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) developing thin clients? What is the difference between Windows Embedded Standard 7 and Windows Embedded Compact 7 for thin clients?

Alexa: Depending on the end users’ needs, Windows Embedded platforms give developers a great deal of flexibility when it comes to the features for thin-client devices.

Windows Embedded Standard 7 equips OEMs with the tools to build the next generation of thin-client devices with and include features, such as DirectAccess and AppLocker, for safe, seamless connectivity between the thin client and the network. Additional features, such as Active Directory and System Center Configuration Manager, enable users to easily manage and control software updates and policies from a centralized location.

Windows Embedded Compact 7 provides the technology to create thin clients that allow for easy device management, with USB Redirection and technology like Remote Desktop Protocol 7.1, giving a dependable remote experience. This platform also includes Microsoft AirSync and Microsoft Exchange support, allowing access to corporate e-mail, calendar and contacts, and provides OEMs with options to quickly create custom, relevant device and application user interfaces and quicker product-to-market capability with Platform Builder, Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft Expression Blend and Microsoft Silverlight for Windows Embedded.

WENC: Can you explain the benefits of RemoteFX and why it is an important addition to Windows Embedded for thin clients?

Alexa: With Microsoft RemoteFX*, users will be able to work remotely in a Windows Aero desktop environment, watch full-motion video, enjoy Silverlight animations and run 3-D applications — all from a central server but with the fidelity and performance expected from a local experience. This is a great advantage for low-end thin clients that don’t have the processor power to support a multitude of performance-based features.

WENC: Where do you see the future of Windows Embedded for thin clients?

Thin clients have been a focus of Windows Embedded for a long time, and companies have been implementing these devices at a growing rate over the past few years. Thin-client solutions are very important to our business, and we’ll continue to provide our OEM partners with the technology they need to continue to offer companies the best-in-class devices they need.

WENC: Where can I go to learn more information?

To keep up to speed with all the latest Windows Embedded thin-client solutions and news, and our partners HP and Wyse, be sure to check our Windows Embedded News Center and follow us on Twitter @MSFTWEB.

*To have RemoteFX, you must have Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.

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