As expected, Microsoft announced today that it has completed the development of Virtual PC 2004, the latest version of the virtual machine environment software based on technology the company purchased from Connectix earlier this year. Though the software can still be used effectively in a variety of scenarios, Microsoft is targeting businesses that need a "safety net" while they migrate to newer Windows versions such as Windows XP; Virtual PC allows you to run older applications in older Windows versions inside of a dedicated virtual host. And because you can effectively run several of these environments concurrently on a single PC, enterprise customers can more effectively manage software migrations.
"Our enterprise customers have told us that virtual machine technologies are crucial for their migration needs," said Rob Short, a corporate vice president in the Windows Division at Microsoft. "Microsoft Virtual PC allows those customers to benefit from the gains in reliability, security and productivity of Windows XP, while also being able to run their critical legacy applications."
Previous Virtual PC versions were quiet popular with programmers and Web developers that needed to test their creations on slightly different Windows or IE versions, help desk workers and support staff, IT administrators, and even enthusiasts interested in testing new versions of Linux or Free BSD. But when Microsoft quietly cancelled support for non-Microsoft operating systems, users complained that the software giant was unfairly targeting the competition. However, Virtual PC 2004, like its predecessors, will continue to run virtually (ahem) any Intel x86-based operating system, including Linux. The difference is that Microsoft won't support such an install, or provide help to users having problems with Linux running on Virtual PC. Microsoft says the product is designed specifically for running older operating systems that users are migrating from, not current OS versions.
From a price standpoint, Virtual PC 2004 is a bargain compared to previous versions. First, Microsoft is dropping the retail price to $129 (down from $229 with Connectix Virtual PC), and the company will make the product available to its MSDN customers later this year. Existing Connectix Virtual PC users will be able to upgrade to the new version for free as well.
Separately, Microsoft is developing a server version of Virtual PC called Virtual Server and a Mac desktop version. Virtual Server, due in early 2004, will let enterprises run multiple legacy server environments on a single server system.