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Windows NT software ships

As expected, Microsoft ships Windows NT Server software that will allow networked computers to run Windows applications remotely.

Microsoft and Citrix Systems officially took the wraps off new software intended for companies looking to centralize desktop applications on a server computer.

Microsoft said it released a final version of Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition to manufacturing, with an initial set of customers already deploying the software, as previously reported. The software package, previously code-named Hydra and generally referred to as Windows Terminal Server (WTS), is being launched at the PC Expo computer trade show in New York City.

The rollout is intended to supply companies currently using older versions of Windows or mainframe-based "dumb" terminals with updated server-based software that supports Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT Workstation applications and feeds those tools to older desktops.

Citrix's MetaFrame offering fills in the blanks, offering support for network computers (NC), Unix-based desktops, and IBM's OS/2 clients and Java-based devices, among others. Citrix also provides added functionality for Windows-based clients.

Microsoft has been working on the product for about a year since reaching an agreement with Citrix to develop the technology for Microsoft's corporate operating system. Citrix will get at least $175 million under the agreement with Microsoft.

Initial customers include Caterpillar, MCI Telecommunications, and NationsBank, among more than 15 deployments announced by the two companies. Executives said initial efforts will target medium and large organizations.

David Weiss, director of product marketing at Citrix, said the release of the NT-based software and MetaFrame is essentially focused on application deployment and centralized management within corporate information technology departments. "This isn't about device replacement, this isn't about PC replacement," he said.

Weiss said his company's deal with the software giant has paid off in the end. "It's expanded the market for us significantly," he noted.

The new version of Windows NT has been widely seen as a response to demand for lower-cost business computing solutions that has created a market for a new class of network computers developed and sold by some of Microsoft's biggest rivals. But the sharp drop in prices for standard personal computers has slowed the momentum of the rival platform.

In conjunction with the software launch, a series of hardware companies launched Windows Terminal devices.

The new version of Windows NT Server will carry the same price as the standard version, according to Mike Nash, director of marketing for Windows NT Server. He also said the company's goal is to include the terminal capabilities as a software service offered on top of Windows NT 5.0, a widely anticipated upgrade expected to ship in early 1999.

A typical 15 user-based installation of Terminal Server Edition will cost about $4,600, according to John Frederiksen, a group product manager at Microsoft.

He said Microsoft's goal was to replicate the pricing model for application access on a PC. Pricing components include a server license for $1,129, a Windows NT Workstation license for $269, and a client access license, available for $39.95. An initial ten-license client access bundle is included with every copy of Terminal Server Edition.

Analysts say the launch is another indication of Microsoft's strategy to extend its desktop dominance to all corners of the computing world, including corporate America.

"For Microsoft, Terminal Server Edition ensures that the operating environment and applications it has nurtured into desktop supremacy will adapt and continue to grow in the form of a spectrum of thin-client solutions," said industry watcher Zona Research in a report.

Reuters contributed to this report.