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VMware Inc. just announced the release of their new product VMware Player. VMware Player can be downloaded for free and lets anyone use preconfigured virtual machines without buying VMware Workstation. For those who do not know what VMware Workstation is, it’s a virtualization software to ’emulate’ a computer. You can run multiple copies of Windows on the same computer, test other operating systems and use it to test your software on different systems. Among other differences, the Player cannot be used to create new virtual machines.

I think the release of VMware Player is a smart move. VMware Inc. tries to convince ISVs to build preconfigured virtual machines to distribute their beta software and production ready applications preinstalled as virtual machine. This would allow customers to quickly evaluate new applications and test beta software without the need to install them. I’m sure many more people would test out beta software if they could just download a virtual machine (maybe even bundled with VMware Player) and then securely test it without putting their machines at risk.

It could be a big advantage for VMware Inc. if ISVs would start distributing their software as virtual machines. VMware Inc. has another set of server products to run and manage multiple machines on a central server. Since all virtual machines that are created with one of the VMware products work on all other VMware systems, customers could just download a virtual machine of a purchased software, copy it to a VMware server and it would just work. This is especially appealing for complex server software where you need hours to install and configure the system and the software.

This would also be beneficial to ISVs. Potential customers could evaluate complex software much faster and without the hassle to install and configure it. The only downside that I can see is that it won’t work with Windows software, because you are not allowed to distribute the Windows operating system. But for software running on Linux systems (especially server software), this could be a win-win situation for both ISVs and VMware Inc. Check out the Virtual Machine Center where you can already download preconfigured virtual machines form Oracle, MySQL and others.