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Thin-client servers to beta

Microsoft and Citrix Systems are set to release second betas of their much-anticipated server software for thin client computing.

Much-anticipated server software from Microsoft (MSFT) and Citrix Systems (CTXS) soon will move another step toward release.

Both companies will announce the availability of second betas for their respective approaches to "thin client" computing tomorrow.

Microsoft's Windows Terminal Server (WTS), formerly code-named Hydra, represents the company's effort to bring its fast-growing Windows NT operating system (OS) into a variety of markets, with WTS serving as a software add-on.

Citrix's "pICAsso" technology extends WTS's Windows-only functionality to Java and network computer (NC)-based "thin client" schemes. Citrix uses an internally developed protocol called ICA, for Independent Computing Architecture, to facilitate support for a variety of clients.

Both sets of software rest on a server and provide applications to different types of desktops, essentially offering users a window into software running on a server machine. In the case of WTS, Microsoft will support all types of Windows clients, from Windows terminals to older installations of Windows 3.51 desktops.

Citrix's technology will fill in the blanks, providing server-based application hosting for NC and Java-based client machines as well as Unix and Novell desktops.

Both technologies will run on top of NT. Likely prospects for the technology include the millions of "dumb terminals" currently attached to older mainframes. As businesses migrate from so-called Big Iron to distributed groups of servers, software that runs Windows applications from a central server could come in handy for certain task-specific duties.

In conjunction with the beta releases, third parties are readying tools to take advantage of the technology. Cruise Technologies will announce new software to extend client support to wireless client devices. GraphOn is also readying tools that allow WTS to support Unix-based "X" clients.