Seven of the biggest desktop virtualization stories in 2012

Desktop virtualization saw its fair share of acquisitions, eyebrow-raisers, licensing controversies, and new products in 2012

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The problem for existing Pano Logic customers was the fact that the Pano Logic system was a completely proprietary end-to-end solution. Its zero-client cube contained no CPU, no memory, no operating system, and no software; and it moved all computing to the client's data center or out to the cloud. Unlike competitor thin client devices, Pano Logic's dedicated hardware technology only works with its own data center software. The company's midnight departure really left clients holding the bag.

3. Microsoft targets iPad and Android users with tablet virtualization license fee

Even before the TV commercials sprang up about Microsoft Surface tablets, the Redmond giant was already trying to stake its claim in the growing tablet market with the release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, as well as an updated licensing change. Unfortunately, what was already considered by many to be a complicated licensing process now became even more complicated. The move was described by some as Microsoft's attempt to slow down Apple iPad and Android tablet adoption by enterprise consumers.

With Windows 8, Microsoft debuted its Companion Device License (CDL), an add-on licensing fee for Windows imposed on tablet devices running virtualization programs that access Windows applications across corporate servers. The CDL would allow organization employees to access a corporate desktop locally in a VM or remotely via VDI on up to four personally owned devices. But therein lays the rub. If a user's nonlicensed personal device happened to be a Windows RT device, the company wouldn't need to buy the additional CDL to cover the user's access to a primary Software Assurance-licensed desktop. Windows RT will automatically receive what is being called "extended VDA" rights. These rights provide access to a full VDI image running in the datacenter.

Microsoft enjoyed going after VMware for the "vTax," but this desktop "tax" somehow seemed reasonable to it.

4. How does OnLive get away with it?

Whether or not people admit to it, they like to get involved with controversial subject matter, and in early 2012, the VDI market had its own "news of the weird" story about a very small online company called OnLive. Amid the controversy (or dislike) around Microsoft's Virtual Desktop Windows licensing, news broke of an online cloud offering that consisted of a Windows 7 desktop with Office applications (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) that was free of charge on an iPad tablet thanks to OnLive.

While this was cool for end-users who could sign up for a free account, it wasn't cool for other DaaS vendors who wondered how it was that OnLive could offer this free of charge and still remain compliant with Microsoft licensing regulations. Nobody would answer, but OnLive eventually complied.

5. Oracle wants in on the VMware and Parallels desktop virtualization discussion

For many years, when you thought about desktop virtualization software that installs on top of Windows or Mac OS, you thought about companies like Microsoft, VMware, and Parallels, whose respective software solutions have been around for quite some time and are really quite good at what they do. But Oracle has been trying to become relevant in that market as well.

In September, Oracle announced another update to its open source desktop virtualization platform, Oracle VM VirtualBox version 4.2, which is popular with the hipsters in the underground. While not as polished or as easy to use and configure as some of the rival desktop virtualization products, VirtualBox 4.2 did get Oracle much closer to that elite group of competitors. It was another solid release from Oracle, adding to its platform support, increasing its capabilities to run more and larger VMs, enhancing its networking features, and updating its manageability. The solution is open source, free, and quick to set up. Oracle VirtualBox should finally be able to move from a cult following to a mainstream desktop virtualization solution worthy of a trial if nothing else.

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