Microsoft extends lifeline for older PCs

Microsoft on Wednesday revealed software that turns older PCs into more modern and secure systems, but in the process also makes them less than full-fledged computers.

The software, known as Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, is designed as a stopgap measure for companies with a significant number of older Windows PCs that they aren't ready to replace and that can't be easily upgraded to Windows XP.

Formerly known by its Eiger code name, Windows Fundamentals gives those PCs some of the security benefits of XP but essentially turns the machines into thin clients, able to run only a few programs locally, with most software needing to run remotely from a server.

As Microsoft announced in September, Windows Fundamentals is being made available as part of Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing program. It's one of several changes the company is making to the program.

"Software Assurance is certainly more than upgrades," said Mike Oldham, a general manager in Microsoft's licensing group. "We see it as a full offering that we are incorporating more value into all the time."

Oldham said that Microsoft developed Windows Fundamentals because corporate customers were looking for a way to get more years out of their PCs. "This gave them a key tool for expanding those life spans."

Turning PCs into thin clients is something new, Oldham said. "Typically we have not delved into that area."

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