Microsoft (finally) broadens Windows Vista virtualization rules

Microsoft (finally) broadens Windows Vista virtualization rules

Summary: Microsoft has lifted its ban on enabling Windows Vista Home Basic and Home Premium in virtual machine environments.


Microsoft has lifted its ban on enabling Windows Vista Home Basic and Home Premium in virtual machine environments.

The company announced on January 21 its decision to add the two new SKUs and planned to update its end-user license agreement to reflect the change.

(Microsoft was planning on making the announcement at 12:01 a.m. on January 22, but another publication broke the embargo, so the company is going out with the news early.)

Microsoft almost announced in June, 2007, that it was relaxing some of its virtualization rules for Windows Vista, in order to allow users of a wider number of Vista SKUs to make use of virtualization technology on the desktop. Then, in the eleventh hour, something happened -- exactly what still remains unclear -- and Microsoft ended up halting the planned virtualization changes.

For businesses, Microsoft is offering an annual subscription to what it's calling the "Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop" for $23 per desktop for clients covered by Software Assurance. This offering, which allows customers to run Vista virtually as a server, previously was priced at $78 per desktop, according to company officials.

Microsoft also announced it has acquired Calista Technologies, a San Jose, Calif.-based desktop-virtualization specialist, for an undisclosed amount. Here's Microsoft's description of what Calist's software does:

"Calista software improves the user experience of 3-D and multimedia delivery for Microsoft multimedia applications, virtualized desktop deployments, and server-hosted virtualized desktops or applications using Windows Server Terminal Services. The addition of Calista technology to Microsoft’s virtualization portfolio will enable people to watch video and listen to audio, and will enable remote workers to receive a full-fidelity Windows desktop experience without the need for high-end desktop hardware. "

("Application delivery" expert Brian Madden provided more details on Calista and how its technology could dovetail with Microsoft's in a prescient post last November.)

Microsoft is planning to announce these virtualization changes at a two-day Virtualization Deployment Summit for about 300 of its customers, which kicks off on January 21.

Until today, Microsoft’s end-user license agreement stipulated that users could run only the Business and Ultimate versions of Vista in virtual machines from Microsoft and other vendors. Microsoft attributed the original Vista virtualization restrictions to potential security risks, claiming that “security researchers have shown hardware virtualization technology to be exploitable by malware” and claimed Vista required an advanced level of know-how to thwart such virtualization exploits.

Any thought on Microsoft's client-side virtualization changes? More to come on this story as it unfolds....

More updates from Microsoft:

* Microsoft isn't ready to talk specifics about how/when it plans to add the Calista technology to its products. But company officials are characterizing Calista's technology as something Microsoft sees as a "platform technology" which it plans to make "as widely available as possible." Perhaps we'll see it folded into Windows 7 ....

* Why has Microsoft decided to add support for Home Basic and Home Premium now? Officials said on Monday that Microsoft is seeing "a maturity in the industry," in terms of being able to trust "what's under the virtual machine." But it doesn't hurt, either, that adding Home Basic and Home Premium will help users run older applications that software vendors are not updating to support Vista.

* While Microsoft did add its consumer Vista SKUs (Home Basic and Home Premium) to the list of products it will allow users to run in virtualized environments, the company is not allowing for the virtualized use of information-rights management, digital-rights management and BitLocker encryption. (These were among the other licensing changes Microsoft contemplated making last June and pulled at the last minute.)

Update to the updates (on January 22): Contrary to what I was told yesterday, Microsoft is now saying that it is not prohibiting the virtualized use of information-rights management, digital-rights management and BitLocker encryption. From a corporate spokesman: "The EULA (End User License Agreement) advises against using these technologies for security reasons, but does not prohibit their use."

Topics: Windows, CXO, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Storage, Virtualization


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What I don't understand...

    Why would anyone want to run the "Home" version in a virtual machine?
    • Exactly...

      Wouldn't it be the other way around: running Xp or 2000 on Vista Home/Premium?

      I am assuming this is because of the Mac. Lot's of Mac users probbaly want to run vista and don't want to shell out for busines or ultimate.

      Talk about MS chasing every opportunity.
      • Hardware support

        Say you have an old scanner that doesn't run under Vista, or your video card runs better under XP when you're gaming. And maybe you want the goodies that come with Vista Home Premium (I can't think of a reason why you'd want XP and Vista Basic).

        Although I can see how the Mac would influence the decision.
        Michael Kelly
        • re: Hardware support

          This is one of those great days, for both companies. APPLE was/is all about the hardware, Microsoft was/is always about the software . CHEERS !!!

          In no way is this any kind of submission to the demeaning of my BRAND .

          "In a world without walls and fences, who needs windows and gates ?"
          • Erm.

            *shakes her head*
          • "In a world without walls and fences, who needs windows and gates?"

            quotes a fan of the totally open, fence-less Apple.
        • Doesn't work that way

          Sorry but when running in a virtualized environment you don't get to take advantage of the hardware acceleration offered by your hardware - particularly video cards. For example if you are using VMWare products, your video card will show up as "VMware SVGA II" in the device manager on the virtual machine.

          So virtual machines are pretty useless for things like gaming where you need the drivers and features of the real hardware - not a generic virtualized version.
          • Yes it sort of does work that way...mostly

            You are correct that gaming would be poor in a VM. However there are still a lot of hardware related reasons to us a Virtual Machine. FYI the latest version of VMWare workstation does allow for directx acceleration - though you wouldn't want to game with it. Video cards are kind of the worst case scenario.

            Where its handy is when your hardware is supported in XP but not in Vista (or linux - whichever you are using as your host os). For example I have an old but perfectly good usb scanner that works in XP but not vista - so it along with a printer that has no Vista driver run off of an XP virtual machine. Note that both of these devices are going on 10 years old. The printer and scanner are recognized in the VM and their own drivers loaded.
      • Home premium is pretty powerful.

        and besides your not running home premium for the sake of running home premium, your running it for the software you can run on top of home premium.

        i dont get your question and its rather silly.

        its almost as bad as saying why would anyone want to vm windows xp.

        hello.. MC FLY
        • Dude, get the quote right

          it's "Herrrooooo, McFRRRYYYYYY!!!!"
        • </a><a href=""></a>


        • Home premium is pretty powerful.


    • Because they can.

      Ultimate is a waste of money (i.e. Ultimate extras are not materializing) so Home Premium is what a lot of geeks have. With the ability to run Premium virtualized, you can perform testing and play with Vista. Many geeks reverted back to XP, this is a path forward for them to play with Vista.

    • Maybe

      Maybe it's -- at least in part -- so users can run Home Basic with Parallels on Macs?
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Thats kind of a stretch isn't it?

        I mean they can run it with Apples boot manager. You may be right, but I just don't see it effecting many.
        • why?

          why run Vista dual boot, when you can run it virtualized? Parallels runs it much
          better, since once its set up you cant even tell Windows is running, and the Windows applications just appear in their individual windows and stuff just like they were
          running on the windows desktop.. right mixed with OSX.

          Only reason you'd want to boot directly into Windows is if you needed some ind of
          direct hardware access to something like the video card, that couldn't be handled right
          emulated in Parallels.
          • why run Vista dual boot, when you can run it virtualized

            your the man.. good post
        • Why dual boot when you can virtualise?

          I do see it affecting many - especially people who have been Mac fans for a long
          time, who want to be able to play Windows-only games but still do productive

          For example the Cider-ised version of EVE Online runs at between 50%-80% of
          "native Windows" speed. I'm not about to go plonk $AU1000 on a Microsoft
          Windows Vista Ultimate Premium Blacklabel Plus version when all I really need is
          Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic Plain Brown Paper Wrapper for $AU75.

          Then I can run EVE natively, in a window, and hide it behind my other applications
          when I want to get on with programming or email.

          Then again, most gamers will agree that Microsoft Windows Vista sucks for gaming
          (around 10% lower framerates for the same game on the same hardware). So I
          guess it's a moot point.
      • This is joke is it not?

        Oh yeah, someone who bought a Mac would want to run Vista?

        It would be bad enough to run XP why would anyone want to run Vista HB?

        Oh I get it! He might be looking for the "why does my printer/scanner/camera/drive/[fill in the blank] not work with this OS?" I am so looking forward to all the teeth gnashing that my friends and relatives experienced with Vista; I can't wait to waste hours loading the latest MSFT dung into my Mac so I can be frustrated like them.

        Hello, what is wrong with this picture? This is more silly than most things written here.

        Or, perhaps he wants to be nagged by the womderful Bloatfarm "crazy-aunt-in-the-attic" security. Are you sure you need to answer that email or go to the restroom now? Don't you want to shut down and restart for each and every bowel movement? Wouldn't you like to buy a Zune and [dare I say it] squirt someone? How 'bout an MSFT ham sandwich?

        As humor, it is weak; as something serious, it is bad humor.
        Why would any sane person who bought a Mac ever consider Vista? This suggestion taxes an already overtaxed imagination.
        Jeremy W
        • Exactly! It's so weird how Apple ...

          Brags about that functionality all the time in their Get a Mac ads.

          I mean, it's not like 90%+ of the world actually uses Windows and wants Windows. It's just simply there because it is. Who wants Windows?

          It's just there on everybody's computers for no reason! Amazing.