Microsoft releases new desktop virtualization tools for Windows 7

MED-V SP1 for Windows 7 is available as part of larger VDI package.

Microsoft on Friday released new versions of its Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) and Application Virtualization (App-V) tools. Both are part of the also newly revised Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2010. MDOP is a gimme available to Software Assurance customers.

Also see: As Windows 7 gains steam, VDI set to rise

Microsoft Med-V
The MED-V tool is a beta of what will eventually be the SP1 release. App-V is now in version 4.6. Both have been updated to support Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit) and Windows Server 2008 R2. They also support more languages. App-V 4.6 for RDS (formerly named App-V for Terminal Services) also supports Windows 7 Mobile.

Microsoft has been accused of dragging its feet with desktop virtualization (otherwise known as virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI). Yes, the company offers users a dizzying array of choices (see chart), with an equally dizzying array of prices that until recently were mostly designed to make Windows desktop virtualization more expensive than upgrading to the latest OS.

But pressure from competitors has prodded Microsoft into rethinking desktop virtualization, at least in theory. Last month, the company conducted a PR campaign (blog posts, Webcast) that touted a renewed commitment to VDI. The key parts of those announcements was a promise of a simpler and cheaper licensing model. On July 1, Software Assurance (SA) customers will no longer have to buy a separate license to access Windows via a VDI. Microsoft however, is still relying on partner Citrix to do the heavy lifting for VDI, rather than increasing the scope of its own MDOP tools.

For instance, MED-V SP1 doesn't use Microsoft's latest desktop virtualization technology, notes Microsoft's Virtualization Program Manager, Ben Armstrong. He writes that, "MED-V 1.0 SP1 still only supports Virtual PC 2007 SP1, so you will be running Virtual PC 2007 SP1 on Windows 7 (not Windows Virtual PC)."

Windows Virtual PC is the tool used to run XP Mode in Windows 7.

In the meantime, VMware and Red Hat (not to mention smaller vendors like Virtual Computer), are frothing at the mouth from the opportunity desktop virtualization presents.

VMware recently released a new version of its ThinApp software that lets users keep their old Windows apps when migrating to Windows 7. ThinApp starts at $5,000 for the software platform and 50 client licenses. Additional user licenses are $39 each. This is on top of its VDI tool, VMware View.

Microsoft wants none of that from VMware. With Citrix it launched a price war that it none-too-subtly named "Rescue for VMware VDI." Users with Microsoft's Software Assurance who have bought VMware View can replace View for free. VMware View customers will get up to 500 XenDesktop VDI Edition device licenses and up to 500 Microsoft VDI Standard Suite device licenses for no charge for a full year in exchange for their VMware View licenses. This program is available from March 18 through December 31, 2010.

(VMware responded in a blog post saying that trading from its product to the combined Microsoft/Citrix product was "trading down" while increasing complexity.)

Then there's Red Hat. After Microsoft's Webcast, it announced an update to its virtualization platform, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (REV), to include support for desktop virtualization. The 2.2 version allows users to run virtualized versions of Red Hat Linux desktops, as well as Windows XP, or Windows 7 off a Red Hat server. Red Hat just wanted to get its two cents into the PR storm -- the software isn't shipping yet, but will be available in the spring, with not-yet-disclosed pricing. However, version 2.1 costs $499 per socket for standard support and $749 per socket for premium support. Customers who subscribe to version 2.1 now will have the option to upgrade to 2.2 for no cost.

Smaller players jumped into the pit in March, too. Virtual Computer launched its upgraded VDI tool, Version 2.0 of NxTop. It supports XP and Windows 7, even allowing users to run them side-by-side.

A lot of desktops are at stake. Windows 7 has only creeped up to 10% share of the whole market, according to, with 64.5% of PC users clinging to XP and 16% on Vista.

Posted by Julie Bort

Like this post? Check out these others.

Plus, visit the Microsoft Subnet web site for more news, blogs, podcasts. Subscribe to all Microsoft Subnet bloggers. Sign up for the bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.) All Microsoft Subnet bloggers on Twitter Julie Bort on Twitter



Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.