It's buying frenzy this week. After Google buying Pyra, Microsoft is buying Connectix's Virtual PC assets. According to this article from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, 30 out of 100 Connectix employees are joining Microsoft. Virtual PC for Mac is a Mac OS software that emulates an Intel PC and allows Mac users to run Windows and Linux. From the beginning, VPC has had the unique ability to permit the installation of multiple versions of Windows and IE, which adds value to the Mac as both a design and cross-platform testing environment. Connectix has since released VPC for Windows which brings this ability to run multiple configurations on a single box to PCs. Microsoft has also acquired an unreleased server version which further builds on this OS/applications virtualization idea.
Most weblogs out there report that Microsoft has bought Connectix as a whole, while it appears that Connectix will continue to have a life on its own. At the other extreme, the Seattle Times reduces this to the Mac OS bit alone.
Todd Dominey thinks Microsoft must have some big plan behind that move. He makes a point in the capacity of Microsoft to throw more resources and improve the product farther than Connectix could ever do alone. However I disagree on the following:
Perhaps Microsoft sees the application as a gateway product - an integrated emulation environment - for companies and small businesses that are dropping Windows environments for Unix / Linux / OS X.
If they dropped Windows in the first place, why would they want to buy it back to emulate it on a Mac? Unless they are all in the web design business, there is little chance that they need VPC at all. Also, most weblogers out there hope that Microsoft will transfer VPC to their MacBU, forgetting that VPC is not just a Mac OS application.
Todd, elaborating on an allegedly malicious nature of Microsoft, suggests that it could remove the current options that allow users to buy VPC without an OS, or with Linux, thus forcing everyone to purchase a version of Windows along with the emulator. While this is a possible scenario, I am not sure it wouldn't go unnoticed while Microsoft remains under close scrutiny for overselling Windows everywhere they can.
An intellectually interesting idea is that instead of developping multiple-OS versions of its products, Microsoft could turn VPC into a complete Windows emulation stack for Mac OS. Instead of supporting two development paths for its cross-platform applications (like Office, IE, WMP), it would only develop a single Windows version and ship VPC along for Mac users. There is a real drawback to this scenario: the disappearance of the MacBU division, which is recognized (even by some Microsoft people) for its ability to often come out with better versions of Microsoft products on the Mac than on Windows!
According to MacCentral, the MacBU will be responsible for all versions of VPC. So I might be wrong, unless the MacBU role turns exclusively into developping the VPC line.
Out of all this smoke and speculations, I think Microsoft is digging into the software virtualization business, which is the core feature of the whole VPC line they acquired. However, a close watch of the MacBU and certain weblogs will be required to reassure the Mac users on the fate of VPC for Mac!
[Update] The Register about this notes the absence of VPC for OS/2, the disappearance of the Linux version and advise Mac users to worry. They also think as I reported above that the virtualization features are what MS is after to.