SAN FRANCISCO (03/01/2000) - After more than a month of delays, Microsoft Corp. finally announced today a stripped-down version of the Windows NT operating system designed to run on appliance servers for shared Net access in offices.
Don't expect to pick up a shrink-wrapped copy of Windows for Express Networks (or WEN) at a local computer store. It will only be available loaded on appliance servers, starting with Intel Corp.'s InBusiness Small Office Network.
Intel's products will be available in mid-March, after some last-minute testing. The servers come in two models, starting at $1300 for a Celeron-366 system.
Both of Intel's new Small Office Network servers come only with a shared 56-kbps modem and do not offer support for a broadband connection, which could be important for a small office of as many as 25 people sharing Internet access.
Microsoft touts its WEN operating system as supporting a broadband Internet connection, but Intel representatives say WEN doesn't support the extra NIC card that would allow that kind of connection. Within the next few months, both companies will offer hardware and software upgrades to enable broadband on the appliances, according to an Intel spokesperson.
The $1300 InBusiness Small Office Network features a 366-MHz Celeron processor, 64MB of memory (upgraded from 32MB), a 13GB hard drive, 56-kbps modem, and an eight-port hub. The second model, the InBusiness Small Office Network Plus, runs on a Celeron-466, and comes with 64MB of memory, a 56-kbps modem, an eight-port hub, a 13GB hard drive, and an additional 13GB removable drive for mirroring. That unit is expected to carry a street price of $1675.
Intel's appliance server boxes are aimed at small businesses with little or no technical support staff. With them, small offices can share files and printing, and can manage equipment remotely through a Web interface. The servers will let many as 25 networked computers share Internet access. If you don't have a technical staff or know-how, WEN guides you through the set-up process with Wizards.
Microsoft also plans to license its operating system to other vendors, so more WEN-powered appliance servers will be coming to market.
Microsoft planned to unveil WEN nearly a month ago. Microsoft officials wouldn't comment on reasons for the delay, but cited general "complications with Intel's manufacturing approval process." More specifically, one of Intel's server appliance models apparently didn't meet the hardware demands of the WEN operating system. So Intel upgraded the memory on its lower-end model from 32MB to 64MB.
It's the additional testing for this modification that has further delayed the product's release, Intel representatives say.