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Microsoft buys Virtual PC

Here’s the way it works: an MS client is tempted by Linux. MS can now say, “Go ahead and run it as a virtual machine. You can use whatever Linux apps you want, but at the same time you keep all the benefits of having the main server itself running Windows.” Or, to a sales target they want to convert from Linux/Unix to Windows: “You don’t have to port all your mission-critical apps over to Windows in a big bang. Just put in the new servers with Windows running on them, and let the virtual machines carry on running them until the native Windows versions are ready.” Either way, they win.

When I saw the news that Microsoft had bought Virtual PC from Connectix (via Sean Campbell and Andrew Swigart), my first thought was, “Wow–that’s different”. My second thought was, “What’s going to happen to the Connectix staff?” My brother-in-law works on VPC at Connectix, you see. (Further reading indicates that a lot of them will become Microsoft employees, reporting in to Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit.)

My third thought was, “Why?” This is the hot topic of the moment. Myself, I think that this has a lot to do with Linux, and selling Microsoft server OSs into the enterprise. It allows MS to go relax their stance on Linux without necessarily endangering license sales. (Not that they will change their position–just that they now can.)

Here’s the way it works: an MS client is tempted by Linux. MS can now say, “Go ahead and run it as a virtual machine. You can use whatever Linux apps you want, but at the same time you keep all the benefits of having the main server itself running Windows.” Or, to a sales target they want to convert from Linux/Unix to Windows: “You don’t have to port all your mission-critical apps over to Windows in a big bang. Just put in the new servers with Windows running on them, and let the virtual machines carry on running them until the native Windows versions are ready.” Either way, they win, because they can treat Linux as a third-party application instead of an operating system.

I also reckon they’ll gradually ease VPC away from the (Windows) desktop, and sell it primarily as a server product. VPC for the Mac will probably remain as a desktop product. Why? Because whether you use a Mac or a PC, a home user is likely to want to buy only one license for Windows. If MS promote VPC for the Mac, they gain license sales. If they promote it for Windows, they’ll be encouraging people to re-use their existing Windows license keys, and that’s a big no-no.

Interesting move, that’s for sure.