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VMware riding on Windows XP coattails

VMware's 3.0 version goes on sale Monday and will allow a Linux "virtual machine" to run on Microsoft's Windows XP system, among other operating system twists.

VMware, whose software lets computers run numerous operating systems simultaneously, expects a boost from Windows XP with its coming version 3.0.

VMware Workstation 3.0, going on sale Monday, is compatible with Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system, meaning a person can run a Linux "virtual machine" on a Windows XP system, Windows XP on a Linux system or MS-DOS on a Windows XP system.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company expects a big boost from the arrival of the latest Windows operating system, Chief Executive Diane Greene said. Companies use VMware to train new employees and to run older software that won't work with newer computers. One insurance company uses it for a 10-year-old check-printing program that runs on DOS

Sales of Windows products are "definitely going to go up as a result of this release," Greene said. Indeed, the company has taken $1.3 million in pre-orders for the product so far. "I think it's going to dominate our workstation business."

"Our Windows business is growing much more quickly than our Linux business," she added, saying the company will stay operating system-neutral. The company got its first foothold in the Linux market, but now two-thirds of its sales are for Windows systems.

Version 3.0 also catches up to hardware features that long since became common on ordinary computers, including DVD drives and Universal Serial Bus (USB) connections. Performance--particularly in the response of often-jerky mouse pointer--also has been improved.

VMware is working with the National Security Agency to adapt its software for use in protecting information, and Dell Computer and Veritas invested in VMware in 2000. Among the company's customers are Microsoft and Novell, which use the software for training.

The company now has nearly 1 million users, Greene said. "We expect to be profitable in the next 12 months," she added.

In the first quarter of 2002, the company plans to begin selling versions of Windows along with the virtual machine software, since running a copy of Windows requires that the user have a license.