Microsoft 's Skype Acquisition

Pros: Provides Microsoft with a solid consumer brand; Skype's peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies don't overlap with Microsoft's existing communications solutions

Cons: Existing Microsoft technologies already offer much of the functionality of Skype; it seems like Microsoft paid a premium price

Rating: Three out of five stars

Recommendation: When Microsoft announced its intention to purchase Skype for a blockbuster $8.5 billion in cash, it sent shock waves throughout the tech industry. But what does this purchase really mean? I've boiled it down to three factors. First, Skype has a killer brand, especially with consumers; it’s one of the few Internet names popularly used as a verb. Second, it keeps Skype out of the hands of potential competitors such as Facebook and Cisco, both of which showed some interest. And finally, there is a technical possibility. While Microsoft's communications functionality—exposed through services like Windows Live Messenger and Lync—requires a client-server architecture, Skype's is a pure P2P solution that doesn't require any server infrastructure. And Skype's ability to easily make IP-based phone calls may have put it over the top. It may be months before we know whether this deal passes regulatory muster, let alone whether Microsoft can make sense of it. For now, call me cautiously optimistic.

Contact: Microsoft

Discussion: SuperSite for Windows: Microsoft + Skype 

Windows Thin PC

Pros: Another option for bringing Windows 7 capabilities to environments with older PCs

Cons: Requires server infrastructure and Software Assurance (SA) licensing

Rating: Three out of five stars

Recommendation: Windows Thin PC (WTPC) is a replacement for Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP). It lets enterprises repurpose aging Windows XP–based PCs as Windows 7–based thin clients. Essentially a lightweight, stripped down, and embedded version of Windows 7, WTPC provides all of the same underlying technology as its desktop-based brothers, so it’s compatible with the same hardware and software. But WTPC can be locked down in useful ways, including preventing the user from writing to the disk at all, making the system ideal for educational and kiosk environments as well as corporate settings. On the server end, it requires a Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1–based infrastructure, because it utilizes that system's RemoteFX capabilities to provide 3D graphics, including the Aero glass UI. But the client requirements are decidedly low-end: a 1GHz or faster CPU (32-bit or 64-bit), 1GB of RAM, just 16GB of available hard drive space, and a bootable DVD drive. Does Windows Thin PC make a lot of sense? For certain environments, sure. But it's not for everyone.

Contact: Microsoft

Discussion: SuperSite for Windows: Windows Thin PC Screenshot Gallery
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SuperSite for Windows: Microsoft Releases Windows Thin PC