Citing the virtual server capabilities of the technology, Microsoft last week 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. The interesting virtual server technologies let modern servers run legacy applications and ease the hassle of running more than one application per server. Virtual PC for Windows similarly helps desktop 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 likely that support for other operating systems such as Linux may be de-emphasized or dropped entirely.
Still unclear is what will happen to Connectix after September of 2003. Until then, Connectix is still selling and supporting Virtual PC, but after that point, the company will basically be a sales and service organization with no products. Although it’s possible that the owners will simply wind up the company then, Connectix has reinvented itself several times over the 14 years the company has been creating Macintosh products. Roy McDonald, Connectix’s president and CEO, told us that they’d be using the next six months to figure out what comes next, and if they come up with any great ideas, we won’t have seen the last of Connectix.
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