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Microsoft advances virtual desktop beta

Virtual desktops are still a new idea to most IT shops. But Microsoft's MED-V is one more tool in the MDOP suite of software.

Microsoft released the initial beta of desktop virtualization software it acquired when the company bought Kidaro last March.

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) in subsequent releases will let Windows administrators create portable and independent desktops that do not affect the host environment. IT managers can deploy an image on a USB key and give it to a contractor or a user to run at home, said Mark Margevicius, an analyst at Gartner Inc., the Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm.

"The image is locked down," he said. "It is what we define as a portable personality, so all the things you need to run on a platform are able to run."

MED-V is similar to products from companies such as VMware Inc. and Ring Cube Technologies Inc. Microsoft hopes that IT shops will use MED-V to ease their migration from older versions of Windows up to Vista, said Scott Woodgate, director of product management at Microsoft.

Microsoft said the final version of MED-V will be released in the second quarter of this year. It can be downloaded at Microsoft Connect.

MED-V is part of Microsoft's Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), a software suite offered to IT shops with Microsoft's Software Assurance maintenance agreement. Woodgate said that Microsoft has sold about 11.5 million MDOP seats at about $10 per seat per year.

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    Desktop virtualization has been slow to catch on with IT shops for several reasons. For one, the idea is still new and the market hasn't offered many compelling usage models to show business value. Also many of the technological pieces are not yet in place so the end user experience has not been optimal.

    MED-V seeks to give Windows administrators better control over virtual desktops. And improved centralization and simplification of desktop management should appeal to IT shops to spur them to adopt the technology, according to Woodgate.

    Microsoft is also developing recently acquired technologies that are expected to address the necessity of having a better end user experience.

    One year ago, the company acquired Calista Technologies Inc., which made software designed to improve the delivery of graphics in virtual environments without the need for powerful desktop hardware.

    The Calista software pushes graphics to remote desktops where it's common to have end users living with bandwidth constraints and high latency, said David Payne, CTO at Xcedex, a Plymouth, Minn.-based integrator. "Calista's [software] can mitigate the issue."

    Woodgate said the Calista technology was in an early stage of development when the company was acquired. The company is still working on its product strategy and there will be no imminent news about delivery.

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