Virtualisation is a curious technology. When Intel launched the Core 2 Duo line back in July 2006 (yes, it really has been a year), every chip from the top end X6800 to the lowest E6400 came with Intel Virtualization Technology, which was later culled from the E4xxx (Allendale) line to cut costs.
The second reason that Intel chose to cut the technology from the lower end desktop processors is that pretty much no commercial customers actually wanted or used it. While for large server installs the idea of running multiple operating systems simultaneously on the same processor, as well as the unbeatable virus protection, was a huge boon, the complication of initially setting up a virtual machine proved off-putting.
It may seem strange, then, that Dell are looking to bring virtualisation into the public eye in the near future. But, then again, some people thought offering Linux was odd and that’s turned into a tremendous success for the company - at least from a PR perspective.
Dell’s Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Kettler, has stated that the idea would be to set the system to load various operating systems when needed depending on the programs being run. Theoretically you could end up with a basic Linux system that loads a virtual XP install to browse the internet, then opens up SUSE to communicate with your server at work before switching into Vista for a quick spot of DirectX 10 Gaming.
For those not familiar with virtualisation, on a simple level it allows you to open up a second separate operating system from within a first, but which acts as if it was the primary operating system. This virtual machine is given a set amount of resources to use, such as processor time and RAM and is a very effective way of limiting a program's natural tendency to fight for any available resources, which can be counterproductive when running multiple programs.
The other benefit is that everything running on the virtual PC gets “turned off” when the program closes, so you can let as many viruses infect your virtual machine as you like because they can’t affect your main operating system. Take that User Account Control.
What makes Dell's offer unique and compelling is that the company will pre-configure the computer to do all of this out of the box, with no set up for the end user. At the very worst this would mean that a clueless consumer would end up purchasing a PC with significantly more security and functionality than a non-virtualised system; at best Dell can educate the public in the use of what many of us here at TrustedReviews see as the next big step in desktop computing.