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VMware offers free Player option

The company debuts software to make it easier to take its virtualization technology for a test drive.

VMware announced a free product Monday called VMware Player that makes it easier for people to try out the company's virtualization technology.

VMware specializes in software that lets multiple "virtual machines" run on the same computer, juggling multiple operating systems to improve efficiency, ease software development or make data centers more flexible. VMware Player is an application for Windows or Linux that runs those virtual machines.

Although people can't create virtual machines with VMware Player, they can use it to test virtual machines that have already have been created using the company's earlier products, Workstation, GSX Server or the top-end ESX Server.

One scenario in which the software could be useful is in evaluating software, already installed in pre-built virtual machines and tested in a harmless environment. VMware offers sample software at its VMware Technology Network.

The move reflects both the EMC subsidiary's gradual shift to higher-level software and its response to the arrival of competitors such as Microsoft's Virtual PC and Virtual Server products ,and Xen, an open-source project sponsored in part by a start-up called XenSource. Linux sellers Red Hat and Novell are building Xen into their operating system products.

VMware President Diane Greene demonstrated the Player software last week at the company's VMworld conference.