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Microsoft Acquires Virtual PC

Citing the virtual server capabilities of the technology, Microsoft yesterday announced that it has acquired from Connectix the entire Virtual PC product line. Connectix first developed Virtual PC to enable Macintosh users to run the Windows operating system and applications, along with other operating systems (such as Linux) that use Intel hardware. In recent years, the company has introduced Virtual PC for Windows, enabling PC users to run multiple simultaneous “virtual machines,” each with its own operating system. Virtual Server, a new product under development at Connectix that caught Microsoft’s eye, is designed to allow multiple independent server processes to run on a single Windows computer.

Microsoft has purchased all three products (Virtual PC for Mac, Virtual PC for Windows, and Virtual Server) from Connectix, and has hired “key members of the Connectix team to continue moving these products forward.” Connectix will continue to sell and support these products during a planned six-month transition period, while Microsoft works to incorporate them into its product line. Following the transition, Microsoft says it will honor all support commitments to existing customers and will offer new support plans. Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit will inherit responsibility for Virtual PC for Mac and plans to continue development.

In the past, Connectix has licensed its technologies to Apple (MODE32), Logitech (QuickCam), and Sony (Virtual Game Station). The company says its product line will still include DoubleTalk and CopyAgent until the end of these products’ life cycles. Since both are compatible only with Mac OS 9, it raises the question of whether Connectix will continue as a company after the six-month transition period. (RAM Doubler support is also slated to end in September of 2003.)

The acquisition makes sense for Microsoft from multiple perspectives. Along with the interesting virtual server technologies, Virtual PC for Windows helps PC users by letting them run legacy programs that are only compatible with older versions of Windows. And Virtual PC for the Mac can only help Microsoft sell more copies of Windows – in the end, Microsoft doesn’t really care what hardware you use to run Windows. For users, the acquisition will probably mean future versions of Virtual PC with significantly improved Windows performance, thanks to access to the Windows source code, although it’s entirely possible that support for other operating systems such as Linux may be de-emphasized or dropped entirely.

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