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Microsoft Opens Up Vista Virtualization

Microsoft now says it will allow more versions of the desktop OS to be virtualized.

Microsoft, still trying to find its way in the new world of virtualization licensing, has changed its mind again on Windows Vista, and now says it will allow more versions of the desktop OS to be virtualized.

Last June, Microsoft said that only the business versions of Vista -- Business and Ultimate -- were eligible to be made into virtual machines (VMs). The revelation came the same day Redmond was set to announce that two home versions -- Home Basic and Home Premium -- were going to be made available, confusing industry watchers with the sudden switch.

Today, Microsoft reversed course again and added Home Basic and Home Premium to the virtualization-eligible list. The announcement means that all versions of Vista are now available for virtualization purposes.

Virtualization is the process of abstracting software from the underlying hardware. It allows multiple operating systems to be run on one physical computer, or multiple instances of the same OS to be run on a single box. Virtualization also allows mobility, allowing a remote worker, for example, to keep a virtual copy of his or her OS on a USB drive, which can then be loaded onto another computer.

Microsoft will presumably make the official announcement during a Webcast on Tuesday. It's in the midst of a two-day "Virtualization Deployment Summit" in Redmond.

That wasn't the only virtualization-related news to come out of the meeting. Microsoft announced the acquisition of San Jose-based virtualization vendor Calista Technologies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Calista's software is concerned with improving the virtualized desktop experience. VMs typically run slower than a traditional desktop, owing to the additional software layer between it and the hardware, creating a substantial amount of processing overhead, and subsequently causing a performance hit.

Calista helps Vista and other Windows desktop VMs perform more efficiently, so the user experience is closer to a native implementation. According to Calista's Website, it's specially effective at enhancing multimedia uses like 3-D, Windows Media Player and other graphics-intensive applications.

Opening up the rest of the Vista line helps Microsoft's bottom line in several ways. First, each virtualized copy of Vista requires a license, meaning more money in Redmond's licensing coffers. Second, having more copies of Vista available pushes forward the OSes' adoption rate, something Microsoft has been pushing hard to do since Vista was first introduced more than a year ago.

Although Microsoft has continually touted Vista's strong sales numbers, it's clear, both from anecdotal evidence and actions from Microsoft and other vendors, that Vista continues to struggle in the marketplace.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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