March 13, 1997 11:15 AM ET
Microsoft previews Zero Administration at CeBIT
By Lisa DiCarlo

  HANNOVER, Germany--A few hours after Intel Corp. shared details of the NetPC and its plan for lowering the cost of PC ownership, partner Microsoft Corp. gave CeBIT attendees here a glimpse of its Zero Administration for Windows initiative, also aimed at lowering cost.

The Redmond, Wash., company demonstrated a Zero Administration Kit for Windows NT Workstation 4.0, which includes utilities that will centralize control of hundreds of PCs on servers.

The kit includes software that lets IS managers choose the application, desktop configuration and data location of software to be used on a networked client.

Microsoft also has included preconfigured system policies and user profiles that let IS managers further define and restrict parameters for users.

The kit would prevent PC users from installing applications, even on a full-fledged Windows PC.

"We can reduce [total cost of ownership] by eliminating access to system files and enable automatic setup of desktop clients," said Moshe Dunie, vice president of the Windows operating system division at Microsoft.

The kit will be available in two user modes--one more restrictive than the other.

TaskStation Mode boots a system to Internet Explorer or an IS-defined specified application. To ensure that users do not attempt to modify the system, TaskStation Mode does not include a Start menu or taskbar.

AppStation Mode, meanwhile, includes a static Windows interface and a simplified Start menu, and limits users to an IT-approved range of applications.

Both modes may be deployed on single-task systems, such as NetPCs or Windows terminals, or on more robust Windows PCs.

Also included as part of the kit is an automatic setup tool that executes new and existing client installs. In addition, servers will automatically update clients to system changes upon bootup.

Microsoft has created a system Policy Editor and template for IS managers to define application access for users.

The company plans to build more robust Zero Administration for Windows tools into Memphis (Windows 97) and NT 5.0, including enhanced policy control for IS administrators, modem power management, software delivering improvements and a code download manager for delivery over the Internet.

Although they were short on details, Microsoft officials also said the company is developing Zero Administration for Windows guidelines for Windows CE-based devices, notebook PCs and dual-processor workstations.

The kit was demonstrated on NetPC prototypes from Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems Inc. and Unisys Corp. Other NetPC partners will not show NetPCs until late in the second quarter.

It is slated to be available to OEMs and end users in 90 days, at about the same time PC makers begin announcing NetPCs.

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