Thin client specialist Chip PC has scored a big win for Microsoft in the German public sector - traditionally thought to be a hotbed of Linux - with what it claimed is Europe's largest single deal for thin clients.

The company has sold 20,000 desktop devices plus management software to the finance ministry of North-Rhine Westphalia, the westernmost and most populous of Germany's federal states, or Länder. Some 80 percent of the thin clients will be in place by the end of 2007, with the rest being installed early next year.

Open source software such as Linux has in the past won several major public sector contracts in Germany. However, Chip PC's European sales VP Stephan Herkert said that a key factor in this sale was the fact that his company's thin client management software, called Xcalibur Global, integrates fully with Microsoft Active Directory.

In particular, the Chip PC software enables the finance ministry to allocate Active Directory tasks and permissions to thin client users, apply security policies and carry out user-level management.

"The customer has chosen the Domain Authenticator software extension to enable user-level control in addition to device-level management," said Herkert. He claimed that Xcalibur Global's use of Active Directory policies, tasks and permissions will enable the ministry's IT team to roll the devices out faster and more smoothly than would otherwise be possible.

Developed in Israel, the Chip PC devices can be used with Windows Terminal Server or Citrix, or in a VMware-based VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) scheme. They are extremely compact and can even be built into a wall-mounted port resembling a LAN jack.

Headquartered in Düsseldorf, the North-Rhine Westphalia finance ministry employs 30,000 people and was already a major Microsoft customer, with its tax agency having the largest Windows Terminal Server farm in Germany. The ministry is also a big SAP and Cisco CallManager user.