Microsoft has set a $US129 price for Virtual PC 2004 and said developers will get the virtualisation product as part of their Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscription.
Virtual PC allows users to run multiple operating systems on the same computer simultaneously.
It supports most x86 compatible operating systems, including Linux, although it is optimised for Microsoft's own Windows software and the IBM OS/2 operating system, product manager for Virtual PC at Microsoft, Carla Huffman, said.
Virtual PC 2004 is built on Virtual PC for Windows, one of three virtualisation products Microsoft bought from Connectix in February. The $US129 estimated retail price for the Virtual PC 2004 is a drop from the $US229 Connectix price, according to Microsoft.
"We wanted to hit a price point around the $US100 mark," Huffman said. VMware Workstation, the competing product from VMware, is priced at $US299 when delivered online, or $US329 in a box. An upgrade version costs $99, according to the VMware Web site.
Microsoft would market Virtual PC 2004 mostly to enterprise users as a way to run older legacy applications on newer Microsoft Windows XP Pro systems and to developers to make it easier to test Windows applications, Huffman said. As a result, Virtual PC 2004 will offer less support for non-Microsoft operating systems than the preceding Connectix product.
The Connectix product had a wizard for default settings for a number of guest operating systems that compete with Windows, including Linux. Virtual PC 2004 only lists various Windows versions and OS/2, plus "others."
Selecting others would set up a standard virtual machine that should work fine for Linux, Huffman said.
In August, Microsoft launched Virtual PC for Mac version 6.1. Virtual PC for Mac allows users of Apple Computer's Macintosh computers to run various versions of the Windows operating system.
Virtual Server is being finalised and is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of next year, a slight delay from the original plan to release the product in the final quarter of 2003. Virtual Server software lets users run different operating systems on a single server. One use of the server product is to help users migrate from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2003.
Virtual PC 2004 runs on Windows XP Pro or Windows 2000 Pro.
Hardware requirements vary depending on which and how many operating systems the user wanted to install, Microsoft said.
Users of the Connectix Virtual PC product would get a free upgrade, the vendor said.