But Virtual PC 7 also plays a role in Microsofts virtualization strategy. Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., acquired the emulator from Connectix Corp. in February 2003 along with Virtual PC for Windows and Virtual Server (then called Virtual PC Server), which was then in a pre-beta stage of development. Three different groups at Microsoft are now in charge of the three virtualization products. Each provides different solutions to three different target markets. What they have in common is the ability to provide multiple virtual machines on one box, enabling customers to consolidate hardware.
"Virtual PC for Mac fits in well with the virtualization trend, though in a different way," said Michael Silver, vice president of Gartner Inc. "It lets an enterprise provide its Mac users with a Windows environment without giving them a PC."
Of the three, Microsoft has said that it was most interested in Virtual Server. It adds to Microsofts growing arsenal of server products and enables Redmond to compete with VMware Inc., a leader in server virtualization.
"From customer demand, weve seen that the largest interest has been in using virtual machines in a server environment," said Eric Berg, group product manager of Microsofts Windows Management Division. "However, weve found value in both the client and server. We have a comprehensive strategy for each platform."
Both the Windows client and server can be used for migration. "You can move to new hardware and the latest copy of Windows," said Berg, "while keeping a copy of Windows 98 or Windows NT for a legacy application that only runs on the older version of Windows. The legacy software also gets a performance boost from the new hardware."
Virtual Server, however, plays a bigger role in server consolidation—the virtualization of multiple servers on a single box.
"A lot of customers want to consolidate servers and server workloads, such as Exchange, file servers, and custom applications," said Berg. Virtual Server is also used in software development and testing.
"Customers can get better utilization of the hardware by installing multiple configurations on one physical machine."
Berg said that customers also use the Virtual PC for Windows client for testing new software on multiple OS configurations, as well as training and demonstrating software. By contrast, Virtual PC for Mac has always had a completely different role, that of enabling Macs to run legacy Windows software.
For a period, it was uncertain what plans, if any, Microsoft had for the Mac version. It was the last of the trio that Microsoft rewrote, shipping 18 months after Microsoft acquired it. With a solid Mac version now on the shelves, Gartners Silver said there is no longer any doubt. "The release of Virtual PC 7 signals that the Mac Business Unit is serious about maintaining a Mac version and didnt just buy Virtual PC only for the server version."