VMWare And Microsoft Fight For The Desktop

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Software firm VMWare has come up with one of the most novel PC tools to come along in years. The company make virtual-machine software which The New York Times describes as doing the following : "A virtual machine essentially mimics a computer so that several copies of an operating system — say, Windows or Linux or both — can run on one physical machine." The benefits, among others, are the the operating system can run across multiple machines saving energy and speeding up the time that it takes to do certain tasks.

But, that raises a complex point. If a license for Windows covers one user, does it cover multiple machines? The VMWare product could certainly undermine Microsoft’s operating system revenue by allowing one copy of Windows to be "used" on several PCs. VMWare is now part of EMC (EMC) and will be "IPOed" soon.

Microsoft is building software to compete with VMWare, but that still begs the question. Microsoft has altered its licenses so that they are based on whether a copy of Windows is being used on a virtual machine or a physical machine, although that distinction may be difficult to track.

In the past, it has been fair to cast Microsoft as attempting, successfully in most cases, to run the competition out of town using bully tactics. This may be one rare case where the party being taken advantage of is outside Redmond.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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