Microsoft has laucnhed the first beta version of the Windows-based terminal server, code-named Hydra.
Microsoft also announced that Windows 98 beta 3 will be available before the end of 1997, possibly as soon as December 1, and Windows NT 5.0 beta 2 will be released in the first half of 1998.
The final version of Windows 98 will ship in the first half of next year, Richard Tong, vice president of marketing and training in Microsoft's Personal and Business Systems Group, said in a press conference at Comdex. He did not say when Microsoft will ship the final version of Windows NT 5.0, which previously was slated for the first half of 1998.
Despite user anticipation of Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0, Microsoft was hyping Hydra, a part of the operating system family that Tong said technically is an application that runs on Windows NT Server, designed to enable terminals to access Windows applications. Hydra can serve either Windows terminals or Windows CE-based devices.
Hydra "is just another way of running Windows applications," said Chairman and CEO Bill Gates.
The network computer (NC), aimed to stymie Windows proliferation by offering an architecture that is "incompatible with the PC," Gates said, defeats its thin-client purpose because of its browser reliance. Gates claimed that browsers consume too much space. "If you want thin, though, you have to take the execution of the browser and other things and move it back to the center," Gates added.
Hydra transmits the user interface data of a Windows application over a network to a terminal, Tong explained in an interview after the press conference.
This is a cheaper and more efficient way of computing in a networked environment than using NCs running a Java-based operating system, according to Tong. NCs are rising in price, even before they hit the market, and they lack compatibility with PC applications and peripherals, he said.
"With the Java OS you can pay as much as you do for a PC and it's incompatible, or you can buy Windows and run Hydra," he said.
Software from Citrix Systems will enable Hydra to operate with different hardware and software that is not 32-bit Windows. Citrix today announced the first beta release of pICAsso which extends Hydra to any type of client hardware or software including 16-bit Windows, DOS, MacOS, Unix, OS/2, Java Virtual Machines, ActiveX controls and browser plug-ins.
Addressing the question of target users for the pending desktop operating systems, Tong said Windows 98 will be positioned for consumer use in the home and Windows NT 5.0 Workstation will be targeted at business users.
Windows NT 5.0 Workstation "requires more hardware, but the cost charges" will yield system management benefits over Windows 98, he said.
In the server space, Windows NT 5.0 outdoes competing network operating systems, such as Lucent Technologies' Inferno which is designed for consumer devices and runs applications written in the PersonalJava programming language. "Windows NT 5.0 offers the same feature set as Inferno but is still compatible with existing applications," Tong said.
And contrary to opinions that Linux could give Windows NT a run for its money, Tong said even though Linux is free and Windows NT costs, people will stick with Windows NT because of the number of applications written for it. "There are a lot of operating systems that compete with Windows NT, but can they reach a level of critical mass?" he said.
Microsoft has licensed more than 11 million units of Windows NT Workstation, the company announced today.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is working in research labs on the network operating system of the future, code-named Millennium, Tong said, adding that a lot of people are building distributed operating systems. He wouldn't speculate on when the "21st century operating system" would be ready for users or testers.