Microsoft sabotaging desktop virtualisation

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Microsoft sabotaging desktop virtualisation

U-turn on licensing changes intended to slow down
competition, Gartner alleges.

Microsoft's last minute decision last week not to ease virtualisation restrictions for Windows Vista are designed to "delay market adoption of competitive virtualisation software" and are " unjustified", analyst firm Gartner charged in a news analysis.

The software vendor last week was planning to change the licensing terms for Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Home Premium, allowing users to run the software in a virtual compartment.

The changes would also further ease virtualisation restrictions for Vista Ultimate and Vista Business, which currently lack support for the Bitlocker data encryption technology and have restrictions on digital rights management (DRM).

Microsoft however pulled the planned changes at the last minute and without explanation.

Gartner alleges that Microsoft is delaying the licensing changes because it wants to slow down the desktop virtualisation market. The firm currently lacks a competitive virtualisation product and isn't expected to catch up until 2009.

"Microsoft has a strong motivation to delay," wrote Garnter fellow Brian Gammage, research vice president Michael Silver and Gartner fellow Neil MacDonald.

The enterprise market for running a virtual desktops is currently limited to application testing for developers and security researchers. Apple users also have jumped on desktop virtualisation as way to run Windows XP and ensure access to applications that aren't available on the OS X platform.

Gartner noted that lifting virtualisation restrictions could increase Vista sales from Mac users.

Enterprises in the future could use desktop virtualisation to create so-called portable clients, where the a user's operating system, application and data are stored on a central server.

All this data is transferred to a virtual compartment on the computer where the user logs in. This scenario however is currently impossible because of the DRM and Bitlocker restrictions.

Microsoft currently offers free desktop virtualisation through its free Virtual PC 2007. The software however is considered inferior to competing products from vendors such as VMWare and SWSoft, maker of the Parallels software.

Microsoft is furthermore trailing behind its competitors in creating a virtualisation technology that relies on a hypervisor. Instead of relying on stand alone virtualisation application such as Virtual PC 2007, hypervisor based virtualisation is embedded into the main operating system which allows for better performance.

The software giant has previously justified its virtualisation restrictions by arguing that virtualisation presents the user with security risks. The restrictions are intended to limit the technology to educated users and businesses.

Gartner dismissed those arguments as "overblown" and "fundamentally no different than those posed by consumers running Windows as 'administrators'.

The firm recommended that users looking for a virtual desktop use Windows XP, which has no restrictions in its licence.
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