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Microsoft boosts virtual desktop plan with Kidaro buy

Kidaro's desktop virtualization management software will be added to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack.

With the acquisition of Kidaro, Microsoft hopes to bring enterprise customers the same level of management capability for virtual desktops as it currently offers for servers.

Microsoft disclosed its intentions to acquire Kidaro, an Israeli software company, earlier this week. The closely held deal is pending approval from Israeli regulators but is expected to close in 30 days, Microsoft said.

Kidaro makes a client/server application that lets IT managers install, manage and apply policies for virtual desktops.

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The application has a second element that provides an improved user interface for managers.

Microsoft currently sells a desktop virtualization technology called Virtual PC 2007 that lets users run multiple OS sessions side by side on the same desktop. The application's shortcoming is that it targets the individual user, as opposed to the enterprise IT manager, said Gavriella Schuster, senior director of the Windows Product Group at Microsoft.

The Kidaro technology delivers a better user experience, in that if one end user signs onto a Vista desktop and simultaneously launches an application that runs on XP on the same desktop, the administrator now has the ability to make it more or less apparent to the end user, Schuster said.

IT can give permissions and assign policies to end users, Schuster said. "They can put a ribbon around the application, in bright red or something, so [the end user] knows it's running in XP," she said.

This might be helpful in a situation where an end user having a problem with an application needs to make a distinction for IT management. The user can communicate to IT about which OS the application is running in.

Kidaro technology is most comparable to VMware Inc.'s ACE, which also helps IT staff manage virtual desktops from a single point of control. Currently there may not be huge demand from enterprises for virtual desktop management, but one analyst said she can think of a few cases where the Kidaro technology may come in handy.

For example, it might be useful in situations where a company needs to accommodate a person who needs temporary access to an enterprise.

"It might be good for a long-term contractor entering an environment," said Natalie Lambert, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "You can provision [that person] a machine or they can use their own machine."

It could also give Microsoft a way to get IT shops to upgrade to Windows Vista. Using Kidaro, a user can continue to run a Vista non-compliant application on XP while running on a Vista machine, Lambert said.

Microsoft said it plans to offer the Kidaro technology as part of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which is available to enterprises with the Software Assurance maintenance agreement as part of their licensing contract. MDOP also includes SoftGrid, Microsoft's technology for streaming applications to the desktop.

Though Kidaro helps manage virtual images on a desktop, IT shops need System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 to do the same on a server. Eventually, Kidaro will see some level of integration with the System Center family of products, Schuster said.

In particular, at some point Kidaro users will likely be given the option of running standalone or integrating with System Center Configuration Manager, just as it is doing with SoftGrid 4.5, which will be released in late summer, she said.

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