Microsoft offers Virtual PC for free

Microsoft has further upped the ante in its competition with VMware -- the dominant virtualization vendor for x86 servers -- by making its Virtual PC product into a free download, and introducing more permissive licence conditions for Windows Vista.

Virtualization, the ability to run multiple server instances at the same time on a single hardware system -- is taking off, with a recent Forrester survey showing that 60 percent of large North American businesses plan to spend money on the technology over the next year.

The technology has been popularized for x86 servers since 1998 by VMware, which also offers the most mature virtualization management tools, according to industry analysts.

Microsoft is intent on changing the game, however. Its Virtual Server and Virtual PC, based on technology acquired with Microsoft's purchase of Connectix, don't have the track record or mature tools of VMware and its partners, according to analysts.

But Microsoft believes it can pull off a similar trick with Virtual Server and Virtual PC as it accomplished with Internet Explorer by making them easily available, and ultimately integrating them into the OS.

"We don't try and be the solution for absolutely everyone," Alfred Biehler, Microsoft UK's product manager for management and virtualization technologies, told Techworld. "But for the majority of the market, we believe we've got a good solution, especially for the cost-sensitive market."

In April Microsoft made Virtual Server 2005 R2, the latest version, free to download; as of Wednesday Virtual PC is also freely downloadable. Microsoft has said it will integrate the technology into Longhorn Server, due next year, within about three months of the product's launch.

Also on Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled some virtualization-related bonuses for customers who sign up for the company's unpopular Software Assurance volume licensing program.

Software Assurance customers pay Microsoft a subscription fee to receive any software upgrades released during a set period, but aren't guaranteed that any upgrades will be released -- and delays have often mean that the upgrades haven't been released when customers expect.

Microsoft has been adding more features to the program to convince customers to sign up; it has also announced that the Enterprise version of Windows Vista will only be available under Software Assurance. In February, Microsoft listed the inclusion of Virtual PC as one of the benefits of buying Vista Enterprise, though Wednesday's news effectively removes that benefit.

Vista Enterprise users will, however, be allowed to install up to four copies of the OS in virtual machines for a single user on a single device, Microsoft said on Wednesday. The licence permits competitors' technologies to be used to create the virtual machines. Previously, users would have needed to buy a licence for each copy of Vista running in a virtual machine.

Also on Wednesday, Microsoft announced it's working on Virtual PC 2007, the successor to VPC 2004. The product will support Vista both as host and guest OS, will support 64-bit Windows hosts (but not guests), and will boost performance over VPC 2004.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matthew Broersma
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?