Thursday, October 12, 2006

Microsoft Virtual PC 2007...Yawn.

I'm disappointed. And that's pretty strong language from me.

I snagged the latest version of Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 as soon as it was released to those enrolled on Microsoft's Connect website.

It installed fine on my work XP Pro system. It over-wrote the Virtual PC 2004 installation--no biggie. It went on smooth and no errors were encountered.

I tested it by loading a new virtual machine of Vista RC2. I used the Wizard to create my virtual drive. It picked up the Vista OS as the guest, selected a default 512MB RAM, and loaded up a 64G hard drive. Then it was able to directly capture the RC2 ISO image without any "virtual-drive" tricks that Virtual PC 2004 required.

The RC2 load went on pretty fast. I was able to get the Virtual PC Additions installed with no errors and it ran very quick--still not a test of Vista RC2's capabilities on a "real" system, but more than ample for application testing and OS familiarization. Heck, even the sound worked.

So why am I bummed?

Well, no XP Home support. Yep. I can't install it on my XP Home system. Stuck with VPC 2004. Which in comparison isn't really all that bad at all. I just was hoping for so much more....some kind of breakthrough event. Yawn. Virtual PC 2004 installs on a number of "non-supported" OS's, like XP Home, but Virtual PC 2007 enforces the rules a little more strictly. It would not install. Period. Oh well.

Here are some more interesting facts from Virtual PC Guy's WebLog post and his response in the comments:

Major changes include:

Support for hardware virtualization (Intel and AMD)
Support for Windows Vista as a host operating system
Support for Windows Vista as a guest operating system

Note: No support for Aero Glass though - just Aero Basic

Support for 64-bit host operating systems

Note: Virtual machines are 32-bit only
Improved performance
Bug fixes.
Some notable ones include: Virtual PC now supports greater than 2.2GB ISO images Plus there are some minor UI changes.
The following are supported host operating systems:
Windows XP Professional

Windows XP Professional Tablet PC Edition

Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition

Windows Vista Business

Windows Vista Enterprise

Windows Vista Ultimate

Then the Virtual PC Guy (Ben Armstrong) responds to user questions:

ikszkom: "so there won't be any changes in emulated hardware? no usb and no aero glass in guest by rtm?"

Ben: "Correct, no changes to emulated hardware sorry."

Jeff Atwood: "Is there any support planned for USB in the guest OS? Are there any major new bits of functionality, or is 2007 mostly a performance/compatibility refresh?"

Ben: "Sadly no USB. It is mostly just performance and compatibility (which is not a bad thing in and of itself)"

PatriotB: "It is a real shame that Microsoft won't "officially" support VPC on the XP and Vista Home Editions."

Ben: "here are a number of reasons behind this decision (business, technical, man hours for supporting more platforms, etc...). However the reality is that Virtual PC is not designed or intended from home users."

Jeff Atwood: "Should we re-install the 2007 version of the Virtual Machine Additions when running a VM originally set up in VPC 2004? It works as-is but I am wondering if there are improvements that would merit a re-install of the additions in the guest OS?"

Ben: "Yes - please update the Additions. There are bug fixes for most platforms in the latest version."

John Schneider: "Can the additions for VPC 2007 be installed on top of the ones from VPC 2004? In other words, if I have a VM running under VPC 2004, with the Additions from VPC 2004, do I just install the Additions from VPC 2007, or should I uninstall the VPC2004 Additions first?"

Ben: "Hmm... We only test installing the 07 Additions on VPC 07, it should work the other way around by this is not guaranteed."

Commenter Johann Ericsson cuts right to the chase:

"That's it? Improved performance, Vista support, and bug fixes? That makes this a major release??? VMware has 64bit support. I'm running Vista x64 client in a Windows XP (32bit) host with VMware. Its an awesome way to test run the 64 bit OS's without sacrificing a machine. VMware has USB support... Imagine if Office 2007 had the same "features"... who would go out and buy a new copy if only for Vista support & improved performance... VMware is going to eat Virtual PCs lunch... Good luck...

I have to agree with Johann. I was expecting so much more out of this release. Maybe I had unfair expectations.

And I'm not dogging on Ben Armstong at all. I appreciate his being forthcoming to share background info on the Microsoft Virtual PC project. It's refreshing to see those responses...even if I didn't want to hear them confirmed.

VMware just seems to provide a significant amount of additional features that Virtual PC just doesn't offer. (For more, hop to Security Now! Episode 57: Virtual PC versus VMware)

Now in all fairness, Virtual PC seems great and stable and easy for enterprise users with an heavy Microsoft OS environment. It can run a fair number of Linux based systems (but not all). It is great for keeping old applications alive in virtual sessions on older OS's while the host OS is current. And it doesn't seem to "deep-install" onto a workstation. It isn't a bad product at all, but it just seems limited to me.

I'm not a power virtualization user by any means. I use it lightly mostly for workstation support and testing. That's about it. So maybe I'm talking out of my league here. I'm just bummed.

Virtual PC 2004/2007 has provided me with an opportunity to test-fly Vista that I wouldn't have had otherwise--being hardware limited. I really enjoy it on the whole. I'm learning lots of new ways to manage Virtual PC machines and developing a new skill-set is always fun for me.

So, what will I do?

I'll keep using Virtual PC 2004 at home. It works fine.

I'll keep using Virtual PC 2007 at work. It works faster.

I'll probably start using VMware player and the various on-line VMware hard-drive creators more frequently to test out Linux builds (and the occasional Microsoft OS) at work and home.

And I'll have more months to come to ponder if/when I will upgrade our home systems to Vista next year.

...but that's another post to come.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I hope I haven't sounded too harsh. I'm just disappointed and bummed.



Anonymous said...

Virtual PC 2007 although free, is pretty much useless without USB support. What looked like THE solution for WinVista owners that do not want to junk their existing hardware turns out to be a huge disappointment.

Claus said...

I don't know why they decided to take a pass this go-round on USB support either. That adds a big plus to users considering VMware instead.

Funny you should post here. I just got done about 1 hour ago installing VPC 2007 on my Vista Home Premium laptop.

The installer balked about it not being a "supported" OS but allowed me to continue on. Once installed I ran it and it gave me one more "warning" message about the unsupported OS, but then worked just as well as it does on my XP Pro system at work.

Go figure....

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.