Analysts expect Apple to play a big role in the virtualization market too

While no official announcement was official made, Microsoft now says its Virtual PC 2004 virtualization application is now free for download. There's no trial out period and no crippled demo. Users who were interested in testing out various operating systems on their Windows PC can now do so free of charge.

The software giant says "whether Microsoft virtualization technology is an important component of your existing infrastructure or you're just a Virtual PC enthusiast, you can now download Virtual PC 2004 Service Pack 1 absolutely free." Microsoft also mentions that the upcoming Virtual PC 2007, set to be released along with Windows Vista, will also remain fully free.

Microsoft purchased Virtual PC from Connectix in early 2003 and took on the development process for the application. Virtualization has become a big topic in the enterprise space as many companies strive to consolidate hardware and IT management. Companies such as VMWare play a big role in this market.

Since the release of Boot Camp several months ago, Apple has stepped into the virtualization and dual-boot market as well. Parallels released its virtualization platform for Apple's Intel-based Macs which utilizes Intel's VT Technology -- this feature gave guest OSes running in Parallels' Desktop for OS X the ability to directly access CPU ops. Many were impressed with the performance of platform.

Since then, there has been speculation that Apple will build virtualization technology directly into its next major release of OS X, codenamed Leopard. Apple is expected to release its server and workstation machines based on Intel's Woodcrest Xeon processors later this year. Considering the ability of Intel Macs to dual-boot OS X and Windows XP while also being able to run high-performance virtualization, analysts are expecting virtualization to become a key component to Apple's Intel-based enterprise machines.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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