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Microsoft's Sam Ramji slammed the door on virtualizing Microsoft's newest desktop operating systems (XP and Vista) on Linux yesterday.In a speech at LinuxWorld, the director of Microsoft's open-source software lab claimedstated that "we haven't seen significant demand for Linux applications on the desktop or for desktop virtualization on top of Linux."
Specifically, Ramji was referring to feedback from enterprise-level customers and its Interoperability Executive Customer Council.
However, one has to wonder why Microsoft is blowing off the enthusiast community. Although server virtualization is "Job 1" for Microsoft right now, there's an increasing demand for Linux on the desktop.
There are plenty of Linux users reading Maximum PC in print and online, for example (just count the number of Diggs for any Linux article on this website), and Linux is getting a greater market share at the desktop level in both the enthusiast and corporate markets. Dell, for example, started bundling PCs with Ubuntu in late May, and Lenovo has just announced it will start preinstalling Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 on its T-series notebooks starting in the fourth quarter of this year.
I think the decision to refuse to support virtualized Vista and XP on Linux will hurt Microsoft in both the short and long term.As I discussed in a recent article on Virtual PC and other virtualization solutions, virtualization solves lots of problems for users: it enables a single PC to run two or more operating systems concurrently and enables users to run legacy programs in their native environment. If I need to use two or more operating systems, I'd much rather use virtualization than fiddle around with the boot-use-reboot-use-reboot cycle or PC merry-go-round approaches (change seats or wear out the KVM switch) that are otherwise necessary. .
While neither XP nor Vista qualify as legacy products, supporting virtualization
would enables Microsoft to blunt the increasing drive to Linux by enabling users to run the operating system they need to support specific programs and tasks: use Windows for gaming or Outlook, and Linux for OpenOffice or Apache web server, for example.
I like Windows Vista (and XP), but I want to use Linux, too. And, I want to run the operating systems I prefer the way I want to. Virtualization makes it possible, and although Microsoft's working on the server side first, products such as VMWare are picking up the slack on the desktop side.
Microsoft's decision to refuse to support virtualization on Linux makes it harder for me to do things the way I want - and I'm not happy. By refusing to support virtualization on Linux, Microsoft is basically telling users, "it's our way or the highway." Unfortunately, more and more users - not to mention two of the biggest PC vendors - are saying "I'm OK with that."
Somebody needs to remind Microsoft that it's no longer alone on the desktop - and it can't bully users like it used to. Somebody (namely me) just did. Is anybody in Redmond listening?
Note: This article has been updated to remove initial references to "blocking" virtualization. VMWare and other products can virtualize Windows on Linux, but Microsoft's basically saying "good luck!"