More on Windows XP "Eiger", the lean Windows client

Posted by bink on May 18 2005, 3:20 AM. Posted in Windows Fundamentals.

Last month I wrote an exclusive article on a new Windows XP edition that Microsoft is developing, codename: Eiger. If you haven’t read it then please take a look, here. This article is a follow up on that story.

Last Thursday I had an interview with Barry Goffe and Jon Murchinson who are part of the Windows division in Redmond and responsible for the product  The interview was by telephone so had some issues talking and typing the notes at the same time (I'm not a professional journalist). Below are the notes converted to an article.

Barry started to explain what the focus Eiger really is: The goal is providing a better solution for certain type of customers and their legacy pc's. Companies that have 5-6 year old pcs that still run NT4 or win9x. These customers are not upgrading their hardware for financial or business-political reasons, but they are concerned about security, NT4 and win9x are not patched anymore, since Microsoft does not support these OS'es.  Manageability of these different OS'es can be hard or it not at all. Windows XP does not run on these systems. Microsoft heard these issues and began thinking what they could do. Eiger is the solution for this, the latest OS for legacy PC's. A Stripped down version of Windows XP that runs on these old PC's and can be managed by client management tools like SMS and SUS.

There are a few scenarios where the Eiger solution will fit in.

Scenario 1: In Education and government environments IT budgets are often low, no budget for replacing hardware.

Scenario2: Businesses that have information workers, working on new PC's that run Windows XP, but other divisions of the company (call centers, factory floors) have people working on old pc's mostly running 1 app (task-stations).

So to manage the new and old hardware and to keep them secure, Eiger is the answer. Patching an Eiger client works the same as patching a Windows XP pro client, the patch file itself is exactly the same.

After my original posting last months some incorrect speculations were made. Here is a list of what Eiger is NOT:

  • It’s not a thin client solution, it can be  more seen as a lean client.
  • It’s not a new kind of RDP client. Eiger XP runs on the local CPU, rdp client can be added though.
  • It’s not a Windows XP "light" edition, where you can run your apps on. Eiger is restricted on what it runs.
  • It’s not Windows XP Starter Edition, this stripped down version of XP is intended for emerging countries.
  • It’s not intended for common business server based computer scenarios,
  • It’s not a general OS; a lot of components are removed.

So how is Eiger built? Stripped down XP pro? Or Added components to Windows PE?

No, Eiger is based on Windows XP Embedded, but since embedded is not licensed to end users but only to devices (in which Windows XPe is embedded) they have combined Windows XPe and Windows XP Pro, a hybrid product so to speak. For instance, Windows XP embedded does not support Plug and Play (PnP) but Eiger does fully support Pnp.

Customers can build an Eiger image by adding components, just like building Windows XP embedded and Windows CE, but the choices are limited, at the time of this writing Eiger is designed to run six types of workloads:

  1. RDP client base, minimal install
  2. 3rd party clients (Citrix client)
  3. Internet Explorer (for web based apps)
  4. Windows Media Player (like media based training (streaming media through Terminal services is poor in experience)
  5. Terminal emulation (5250, telnet)
  6. Management, Security client

These are the options, further the Eiger client is restricted, you cannot install something like Outlook on it.

Currently Eiger is being tested by a small selected group of customers and Microsoft is just starting to get feedback. Because the target audience of Eiger is very narrow there will be no public beta.Barry couldn't say anything on the availability of the the lean XP client, because it is so early in development he didn't want to disclose any release date, licensing models, distribution or pricing

Currently the Eiger client is an image of about 350 MB. It will run on Pentium II machines with 65 MB ram, though 128 MB is recommended.Eiger can boot of the Hard drive, CD-rom or a RIS server. Booting from a flash disk is still in development.

The codenames Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are named as the mountains in Switzerland. The Product Manager of the Eiger project is from Switzerland ;-)