VMware this week released a free utility that lets users run pre-created virtual machines on Linux or Windows PCs, giving companies the ability to distribute beta software, custom applications, or special environments to workers or customers who don't use VMware's more expensive desktop or server products.
The VMware Player can run virtual machines built with VMware Workstation, GSX Server, or ESX Server, and also supports Microsoft's virtual machines and disk formats created with Symantec LiveState Recovery.
VMware's pitching the player as a way for users to run pre-configured environments quickly, without having to install a new operating system, or even new applications themselves.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which was acquired by EMC in early 2004, has also posted several ready-to-go virtual machines that can be downloaded and run with the player. Companies such as Novell, Red Hat, IBM, and Oracle have stocked the download center with virtual machines touting their products.
One of the downloads, dubbed "Browser Appliance," lets users surf the Internet from within a virtual machine, insuring that any malicious code encountered on the Web -- spyware, for instance -- can't infect the host PC.
VMware warned users, however, that the virtual machine downloads are on the large size 200MB to 2GB -- and suggested that they use a download manager of some sort in case the download's interrupted.
VMware Player can be downloaded from http://www.vmware.com/products/player/.