Microsoft on Monday revealed that Beta 1 of its Windows-Based Terminal Server 4.0, code-named "Hydra," was released to a small group of beta testers. A beta 2 release will be more widely-tested, perhaps even publicly. Microsoft was demonstrating Hydra on the Comdex show floor this week. This multi-user version of NT is Microsoft's answer to the thin client market.

"There are a number of vendors that have promoted thin clients, but they are flawed in that they are incompatible with PCs and their approach requires the use of a \[Web\] browser to run locally," Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates said. "Any machine that can run a browser is not thin. The browser has to be the thickest application man has ever invented, and it's getting thicker faster than anything ever developed by man."

Hydra will give users the "local computing power to run a lot of applications...but move the execution to the back end," Gates said. "Where you have seen terminals, those will be replaced by Hydra clients."

Hydra Beta 2 will support Microsoft's Cluster Server technology and be geared toward NT 5. For now, users that need load-balancing can turn to a Citrix "Hydra extension" server. Hydra Beta 2 will also support the Microsoft Management Console and Active Directory. Microsoft says these new features will not increase the footprint of the client machines