One thing Microsoft never made clear in the last few years was its virtualization strategy for the consumer market.
Yes, if we talk about the client side of an enterprise infrastructure, then we know that Microsoft has big ambitions, and it’s working to push both App-V (formerly SoftGrid) and MED-V (formerly Kidaro Managed Workspace) through its MDOP bundle for Software Assurance customers. But nothing has been said so far about what options will be available for the millions of consumers that want to run a virtualization product on top of their Windows Vista and Windows 7 boxes.
Yes, Microsoft offers VirtualPC, a product that is not seriously updated since a long, long time.
The latest version, VirtualPC 2007, is dated February 2007. To arrive there Microsoft took 4 years, during which it only released service packs for VirtualPC 2004 that introduced minor enhancements.
The company even cancelled the Mac editon of VirtualPC in August 2006.
It doesn’t surprise that prosumers look at VMware Workstation or Sun VirtualBox, and maybe Citrix XenWorkstation (if it really exists).
After years of nothing Microsoft must have finally recognized the value of evangelizing the masses about virtualization with a valuable desktop virtualization product, so it’s now embedding a new version of VirtualPC, internally called VirtualPC 7, inside the upcoming Windows 7.
The way Microsoft is pushing this anyway is odd: the new version of VirtualPC will be used just to virtualize Windows XP SP3, and the resulting virtual machine (which we can safely call a virtual appliance) will be bundled only with the Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7.
The new product is called Windows XP Mode and includes some long-awaited features like seamless windows, as well as support for multi-monitor and USB virtualization.
VirtualPC 7 will require a Intel VT or AMD-V enabled CPU and of course an appropriate amount of RAM (Microsoft says 2GB minimum).
This approach may work for the average consumer but the professionals (like the millions of developers that Microsoft feeds with its programming languages) out there that want to really play with virtualization may be easily consider this too little too late.
Update: Microsoft published a new Windows 7 Virtual PC Evaluation Guide which contains additional information about the new product.
It seems that Microsoft plans to allow its customers to use VirtualPC 7 beyond the Windows XP Mode:
Integration components make it easier to use a virtual machine by improving the interaction between physical resources and a virtual machine environment. These are installed automatically when you set up Windows XP mode. For other operating systems, you install them separately after you set up the operating system.
Choose this option if you do not want to use Windows XP as the guest operating system. This option shows you how to create a virtual machine and install the guest operating system that you want to run in the virtual machine…
Thanks to Dugie’s Pensieve for the link.