Whenever the folks from Connectix (800/950-5880, www.connectix.com ) talk to users about potential improvements to their Virtual PC cross-platform software, one request always comes up first. "The first thing everybody wants is speed," says product management director Kurt Schmucker.
Not surprisingly, that's the feature Connectix wants to talk about with Virtual PC 4. The company announced the upgrade Tuesday.
Virtual PC 4 with Windows 98 is available now for $199; existing users can upgrade for $79. Connectix will roll out versions of Virtual PC with PC-DOS and Windows Millennium later this month and in January, respectively. OS packs featuring Windows 95, Windows 2000, and Linux will arrive in the first quarter of 2001. Pricing on the OS packs hasn't been set yet.
OS Packs will allow users of Virtual PC to quickly and effortlessly -- as simple as dragging and dropping -- add other PC-based OS's, like Windows 2000, Millennium, 95/98, NT and Linux. Such a feature is ideal for folks like Web designers, Schmucker says; they can build a site using the Mac OS, but run multiple Windows systems to make sure pages render properly each time.
A faster Windows emulator means the Windows applications users run will go faster. And the Virtual PC update promises speed -- roughly twice as fast as version 3.03, according to Connectix's own testing, Schmucker says.
"We made extensive use of AltiVec in Virtual PC 4," says Connectix vice president of marketing Mitchell Cipriano, referring to the performance-boosting technology built into Power Mac G4 processors.
Virtual PC 4 adds larger and expandable disk images. The virtual hard disk created by the program on the Mac drive expands as needed and uses only the space it requires instead of a preset amount. Users can now boost memory to the operating system within Virtual PC without quitting the application.
"The theme is flexibility," Schmucker says. "Flexibility on what OS you're on, on what applications you can run."
Connectix made further changes to the interface to make the product more Mac-like in its appearance. Users can resize windows in the latest version. Help files have been built in to version 4.
One thing users won't find in Virtual PC 4 is compatibility with Mac OS X. Connectix plans on supporting the next-generation operating system, with an OS X-ready version of Virtual PC scheduled to hit the market right after a finished version of OS X does. Producing a version of Virtual PC to run on the OS X beta just wasn't technically or economically feasible for Connectix, Schmucker says. Unfortunately, running Virtual PC inside the OS X Classic environment won't work, not only because of a performance hit, but also because the OS is already emulating Classic, and Virtual PC needs access to the hardware.
Buyers of Virtual PC 4 won't have to worry about buying another copy when the new OS ships, Connectix said there would be some rebate for current users, but had no pricing information to offer at this time.