Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More on Microsoft's virtualization flip-flop

news analysis For months, the industry has been calling on Microsoft to ease restrictions forcing customers to use only the priciest versions of Windows Vista for desktop virtualization.

It was not surprising, then, when Microsoft started telling reporters and analysts that it was going to change the policy and allow lower-priced home versions to also be used. What was surprising to journalists, bloggers and analysts alike was a terse statement e-mailed last night from Microsoft stating that the company was reversing its plans and sticking with the old restrictions.

"Microsoft has reassessed the Windows virtualization policy and decided that we will maintain the original policy announced last fall," the company said in its e-mail. A company representative declined to comment further or say what prompted the move.

Once the domain of true geeks, virtualization is creeping into the mainstream. The technology, which allows multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on one computer, has become particularly important for Mac users who want to run Windows programs side-by-side with the Mac OS.

All along, Microsoft has been saying there are security risks associated with the latest generation of virtualization technology. Indeed, a researcher showed a program at last year's Black Hat security conference that showed how virtualization could allow malicious code to operate invisibly, similar to a rootkit. And, in discussing its plans to ease the restrictions, Microsoft said it still had security concerns, but had concluded it was better to let users decide whether to take on those risks.


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