Most people expect some flip-flopping in an election year, but not usually from their software vendor.
Nonetheless, Microsoft on Monday changed its mind again, saying it will allow users to run Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium as guest operating systems on a virtual machine. The news is especially welcome for Mac users who want to run the latest Windows version without having to pay an arm and a leg. Until now, Mac users and others wanting to run Vista virtually have had to fork over for the most expensive Business and Ultimate versions.
Microsoft had briefed reporters in June that it was going to expand Vista's virtualization options, but then for reasons that were never made clear, it reversed itself and never announced such a move.
The reasoning behind the limitation never made that much sense to me. Microsoft's argument was that running Vista in a virtual machine represented some security risks. The company said it was not the case that the Ultimate or Business versions had less of a security risk than the Home editions, but rather that by limiting virtualization to the pricier versions, ideally only more technically sophisticated people would make the move.
In any case, Monday's move will certainly be welcomed by enthusiasts, Mac users, and virtualization software vendors such as Parallels.
Microsoft group product manager Patrick O'Rourke said in a telephone interview Monday: "Now is the right time, we believe, to make it easier for technical enthusiasts...to experience and see if virtualization is right for them."
As for the flip-flop in June, O'Rourke wouldn't go into the specific thinking behind either the planned move or its reversal. "There was some internal discussion still occurring at the time," he said.
The Vista change was just one of several announcements made by Microsoft on Monday. The company also said it is buying Calista Technologies, a San Jose, Calif.-based company that has technology to improve the performance of remote desktops. The company has a patented approach for creating a virtualized graphics processor, which can help with 3D and other image-rendering tasks when doing so-called "presentation virtualization." Microsoft also expanded its alliance with thin-client specialist Citrix Systems.
Microsoft is also cutting the price of a new product for large businesses that want to run Vista on a server and use either a PC or thin client to act as a terminal to display the information. O'Rourke said that businesses that are part of its Software Assurance program will be able to use the technology by paying a license fee. For Windows PCs, the charge is $23 per machine a year, while thin clients will require a fee of about $110 annually.
That represents a price cut of about 25 percent to 50 percent compared with Microsoft's original plans.