"There is a set of customers who have old hardware and who want to try to eke a little more value out of that hardware," Goffe said in an interview on Thursday.
The Eiger product is meant not for home users or small businesses but for large organizations that currently use older PCs with older versions of Windows, such as Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows NT 4.0, Goffe said.
By upgrading, users will gain management features such as Active Directory and Group Policy Management. Also, the older Windows versions could be a security threat because Microsoft no longer provides patches for the operating systems. As Eiger is based on Windows XP, users will be able to plug security holes with patches supplied by Microsoft.
Eiger is being designed to run server-based applications; it won't run Office or line-of-business applications locally, Goffe said. Server-based applications can be reached through Microsoft's or third-party terminal services clients and mainframe terminal emulation, he said.
Eiger will also include Internet Explorer for access to Web-based applications and Windows Media Player, Goffe said.
For further manageability, Eiger will support Microsoft and third-party security and management products. For example, it will work with Microsoft's SMS (Systems Management Server) and WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) systems management and patching products.
Goffe has come across organizations in government, manufacturing, health care and financial services that would be interested in Eiger, he said. For example, one school system with 200,000 PCs would rather spend money buying text books and paying teachers' salaries than buying new PCs, he said.
Microsoft has not yet decided when it will ship Eiger. The company plans to have a first beta test version ready later this year, and a technical preview version is being sent to a very small number of customers this week, Goffe said. Pricing has yet to be determined.