Desktop virtualization: Vista's secret weapon?

Virtualization could alleviate obstacles that have plagued Vista adoption, like application compatibility

As Microsoft continues to recommend that business customers not pass over Vista in favor of the forthcoming Windows 7, the company has been working quietly to improve its software for desktop virtualization, which could in the future alleviate obstacles like application compatibility that have plagued Vista adoption.

Microsoft last month closed its acquisition of Kidaro Technologies, a desktop-virtualization software vendor, and plans to use technology from that company to create a new product called Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, which the company will release in the first half of 2009, according to a post on Microsoft's Windows Vista Team Blog.

Desktop virtualization software allows a business to run an entire desktop, including the OS, as a virtualized container on a network. Specifically, Kidaro's software allows users to run applications from multiple versions of Windows at the same time on a desktop, with seamless windowing and menus so it is not confusing to users, according to the blog, which is attributed to Chris Flores, a communications director at Microsoft. This scenario alleviates the problem of having to bring older applications up to date with a new OS running locally on a client machine.

Microsoft will combine desktop-virtualization technology from Kidaro into the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) of software to create the forthcoming Enterprise Desktop Virtualization software next year. Microsoft has been offering MDOP for Vista since last July to make it easier for business customers to deploy the OS across multiple desktops. The package includes application virtualization and desktop- and asset-management software from several Microsoft purchases, including Softricity, AssetMetrix, Winternals Software and DesktopStandard, and is designed to help business customers deploy a new OS and then manage client desktops.

In recent months Microsoft executives both privately and publicly have been stumping for the company's application- and desktop-virtualization strategies. As business customers have been slow to adopt Vista, both scenarios can help solve at least one of customers' major gripes with the OS: getting older applications to run, and run well, without a lot of recoding or reconfiguring.

At a talk in New York last week, Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie promoted Microsoft's desktop-virtualization strategy, stressing how it will alleviate compatibility problems.

"It's really the ultimate way of ensuring that if you have written an application in the desktop environment that you can run it in another version of the OS," he said at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. "As we make further and further improvements in the desktop, we'll make use of virtualization technology to ensure that compatibility."

Similarly, at a private meeting with journalists in April, Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows product management, also stumped for Microsoft's application and desktop virtualization plans.

Application compatibility has been one of the reasons businesses have been slow to adopt Vista, a fact that has not been lost on Microsoft. The company on Wednesday released a white paper encouraging businesses to adopt Vista amid increasing reports that businesses will skip it in favor of the next version of the client OS, code-named Windows 7, which is due out late next year or early 2010.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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