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ThinLaunch not all that impressive

At the New Innovators both at VMworld 2008 was an interesting small booth from ThinLaunch, which was manned by three of the four people in the company. I had a short pow-wow with two of the folks there and came away with mixed feelings. The product, for which the company is named, appears to fulfill a couple of interesting needs, the first being IT shops that want to pilot virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) but don’t want to invest beyond the server room, and the second being smaller businesses that have server virtualization capacity to devote to hosting clients but have been loathe to rip and replace their thick clients with new thin hardware. I’m not too wowed by the product but I can see where it may be useful. That said, I was royally unimpressed with the technology.

ThinLaunch can be cobbled together with a few Group Policy object edits in Active Directory without buying the product. Simply replace the shell with whatever VDI launcher (or other application) you want. Microsoft tells you how to do it here. True, ThinLaunch then monitors this process if it crashes and can automatically restart it, but this is also something that can be managed with an application or by copying the code from this site.

ThinLaunch is available as an MSI package, meaning it’s very easy to deploy via Group Policy. Then again, Group Policies are even easier to deploy via group policy. Duh. ThinLaunch requires .NET 2.0. and GPOs don’t. ThinLaunch supports Windows 2000 through Vista and 2K8. GPOs do too.

I can see the need for this package and I can even see some large enterprise customers who’d want a packaged application to handle the conversion of legacy desktops. I can even see using the product in small businesses with virtualization already in place but a lot of legacy desktops and a lack of cash. What I can’t see is how it’s innovative in its approach.

Sorry, ThinLaunch, but you get three out of ten pokers — there’s just nothing hot there.

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Hello Joe and Readers - First, my disclaimer. I'm one of the people you talked to at VMworld, I'm also a founder of ThinLaunch Software. Thanks for taking the time to blog about Thin Desktop. I was not aware of your comments until a customer directed me to your blog today! Your comments are similar to others we have heard. As a result of feedback, we have eliminated the .NET dependency. The driving factor for this change has been the multiple requests to run Thin Desktop with XPe on a thin client device. As you point out, in addition to locking down these devices, we also hide the windows shell / interface from the user and run a monitoring process to make sure the locked down interface can not be lost or changed by the user. To say this is the same as GPO, is misleading. Anyone trying to deploy GPO on multiple harware devices has experienced the nightmare.... You'll never see the infamous blank blue screen with no where to go with Thin Desktop. We have many instances where customers have just gotten tired of fighting with group policy to accommodate even the most minor changes. With over 2000 options and a management interface to deal with to use GPO, Thin Desktop is MUCH easier to configure, manage and deploy. Hey at $20.00 a copy, it's a pretty easy to justify in any organization. I invite you and your readers to give it another look at download it and try it.
I agree with Michael Cardinal. There is more here than simply group policies and launching processes. ThinDesktop is a VDI shell, custom programmed to lock down the experience, secure the workstation or ThinClient is not comprised, and work on almost any hardware. This is not easily accomplished via Group Policies (i.e. you cannot monitor/restart policies, etc.). This get really crazy when you run into the various clients in which one process launches several other processes (each of which must be monitored). For example, Citrix pnagnent.exe launches several parent and child processes. With ThinDesktop you can lockdown and deploy a VDI client in seconds. And wait until you see ThinDesktop V3 coming out in Q1 2010... you will be very impressed :). It will be a game changer!
Hi there! I really don't get this product... we have been converting old machines into thin clients for years with a simple registry hack and a script which monitors and restarts the process if it terminates. Here's the hack: REGEDIT4 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon] "DefaultDomainName"="*******" "DefaultUserName"="*****" "DefaultPassword"="*****" "AutoAdminLogon"="1" "ForceAutoLogon"="1" "Shell"="C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe -k citrix-webinterface" Logs in automatically and starts IE in kiosk mode, pointing to the Citrix log on page. GPO to lock down IE and disable hot keys. Registry hack applied via GPO so as soon as I put a computer into the OU it turns into a thin client. So why would I pay ~$20 per license for something we can do for free?? Cheers, Damon