Hoping to capitalize on designers' needs to maintain multiple versions of Windows across their studio or home studio, Connectix will formally roll out its Virtual PC for Windows this week at TechXNY, formerly PC Expo, in New York. There is an exclusive technology demo on the next issue of Digit.
The new product, built around virtual machine technology, allows users to upgrade to the upcoming Windows XP and Windows 2000 operating systems, while continuing to run Windows 95/98 and Windows Millennium on the single machine. Retaining older versions of Windows enables users to still run older applications that may not work with the newer versions of the operating system such as Windows XP or Windows 2000.
While the product also allows users to run Linux as a guest operating system under Windows on the same machine, company officials believe the vast majority of sales will come from those users interested in salvaging significant investments made in older third-party and internally developed Windows applications - and also from Web designers and multimedia producers looking to ensure sites and programs work on different platforms.
"What we are really trying to do is solve complicated compatibility problems," said Mitchell Cipriano, vice president of product management for Connectix in San Mateo, Calif. "Applications developed for Windows 95 that will not work under Windows 2000 can be a stumbling block to upgrading. This way they can run their older apps but still interact with an Active Directory environment."
According to sources, Microsoft has been in talks with Connectix to either make an investment in the company and/or license its technology. Cipriano said, however, that there have not been discussions focusing on investments or an acquisition.
"We are an OEM of Microsoft's, so we certainly talk to them about possible solutions regarding compatibility solutions, and they have been receptive to our technology as a solution. But they have not licensed the technology yet," Cipriano said.
With many users looking at the prospect of migrating their existing applications sooner or later to the newer Windows platforms, some say a product like Connectix presents them with a transition strategy.
"[Virtual PC for Windows] is worth a look because it at least solves some short-term compatibility problems for us, while we evaluate what applications we are bringing over to the newer [Windows] platforms and which ones should stay put," said Bill Henderson, IT manager with a large Omaha, Neb.-based insurance company.
"The benefit of using this technology is that users can run Windows XP and still run a fully licensed copy of Windows 95 or 98 in that same environment. It gives them better compatibility," said Al Gillin, software analyst at IDC in Framingham, MA.
With Connectix, each virtual machine within a single computer operates as if it were a stand-alone machine with its own dedicated sound card, video board, and network adapter card and running its own operating system. If one virtual machine crashes, the others are protected and continue running.
Connectix will target those users and IT professionals working in technical support, education and training facilities, those doing "sandbox" migrations, and those testing Web-based applications still under development, company officials said.
"People working in call centers need something like this because they are constantly working simultaneously with people running multiple operating systems on a single PC. And developers in larger shops are always creating apps for a range of different operating systems," Cipriano said.
Like other virtual machine technologies, users will require additional hardware. The company recommends that users running Windows Me, Windows 2000, or Windows NT have a 500MHz Pentium II or higher with a level 2 cache with 96MB of memory.
Users running Windows 95 as a guest operating system under any of the above three host operating systems need at least 128MB of memory. Those running Windows 98, Windows Me, and Linux as guests need 192MB of memory, and those running Windows 2000 as a guest need 256MB of memory.
Users also need between 50MB and 2GB of free disk space, depending on which guest operating systems they choose to run.