As Steve Jobs marched developers onto the keynote stage to demo their latest OS X efforts, there was one tantalizing icon on the presentation Macis dock. That icon was a familiar beige box that turned out to be an OS X Test Drive of Virtual PC 4.0, the work of Connectix, Inc. The time-limited demo is a free download for registered users of VPC 4.0 for Mac OS 9.
Connectix freely admits its not feature complete yet, just a technology demonstration, but it can still do plenty. It supports all VPC 4.0 disc images and Connectixs pre-installed, pre-configured OS Packs. Printing from Windows is supported, as is drag-and-drop. Linux and even the unreleased Windows XP will run as well. But COM and serial ports dont work, and the only supported USB devices are mice and keyboards for normal use. Full screen mode and the Network Neighborhood also do not yet work. You cant assign a unique IP to a virtual machine. Plus performance has not been tuned as one would expect with a preview product, so the Mac OS 9 version may be faster at some tasks. On the other hand, OS Xs multi-tasking makes it much better at dealing with multiple running virtual machines. In addition, the company demonstrated AutoCAD in the Technology preview, something that has not been possible in previous versions of VPC.
With Virtual PC 4, Connectix used the opportunity to do a complete rewrite of the application to prepare for the transition to Mac OS X, and this preview is the next step. The download comes with no official support, but a user forum will be provided for discussion and feedback. Although the company has not announced an upgrade price or release date, this preview expires on January 31, 2002. Draw your own conclusions as to what that might mean.
The preview requires Virtual PC 4.0.2 and the 0006 Additions, a G3 or better with Mac OS 10.0.4 and, like its OS 9 counterpart, lots and lots of RAM: 160 MB for DOS, 192 MB for Windows 98/ME and 256 MB for Windows 2000.
You can find more information on the Test Drive at Connectixis Web site.