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Microsoft embraces 'Bring Your Own Laptop' model

It bought Kidaro with an eye toward spurring Vista adoption, but the company says the deal should allow businesses to let workers to use personal laptops on the corporate network.

REDMOND, Wash.--You've heard of BYOB, now get ready for Bring Your Own Laptop.

There's a small but growing trend in which companies are choosing to give employees money toward their personal laptop, rather than providing a company-issued portable. British Petroleum is among the companies that is trying the approach.

One of the technologies that is making that possible is desktop virtualization, which allows companies to put their software or even an entire corporate image onto the device without having to worry about the fact that it doesn't control the entire laptop. Basically, the corporate stuff can run in a sandbox, with personal data and programs running alongside--but not intermingling with--the business processes.

For the company, such personally owned laptops can save on support costs and serve as a retention tools for Generation Y-ers, said Lee Nicholls, global solutions director for IT consultant Getronics.

"They have a really high expectation of what they want to work with," Nicholls said. "They want a degree of flexibility."

To make that approach more workable, Microsoft has scooped up a company called Kidaro that allows software running in a virtual machine to run alongside ones running from the main operating system. The deal to buy Kidaro was announced in March and Microsoft said Thursday that the deal has closed. However, Microsoft won't start selling the product itself until sometime in the first half of next year.

Microsoft's Shanen Boettcher said that type of virtualization approach is still a very niche concept. The use of any type of desktop virtualization is still small, he said, but over time its use will grow and Kidaro will help in making an experience that is more palatable to individuals.

"It's early on," said Boettcher, a general manager in Microsoft's Windows unit. "Less than 1 percent of desktops run some virtualization today."