Virtualize Windows on Linux? Microsoft Says Servers First


Update 8-9-2007, 3:03PM PDT : This article was originally titled "Virtualize Windows on Linux? Microsoft Says No Way!". I badly misunderstood the essential point of Sam Ramji's talk this week at LinuxWorld. Here's his statement from our comments:

Windows DOES Virtualize on Linux

The reporter from eWeek clearly misunderstood the presentation, as discussed by a few posters here and many other reporters and analysts.

Ironically, I spent 60 minutes detailing the work my lab is doing to enable virtualization of Linux on Windows and Windows on Linux.

We do enable both through our licenses, including our desktop operating systems. My statement in my presentation was that my lab was working on server virtualization interoperability and not on the desktop at this time.

Sam Ramji
Director, Open Source Software Lab
Microsoft Corporation

I apologize for the misunderstanding to both Mr. Ramji and Microsoft as well as our readers. I appreciate how, in an increasingly diverse computing world, virtualization helps users choose the right tools for the job, and I am pleased to see that Microsoft is working hard to make virtualization work well on the server side. - Mark Soper

The updated version of the original article follows.

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 claimed stated 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!"

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