VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). See “About VirtualBox” for an introduction.

Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), and OpenBSD.

The default VirtualBox UI is clean and uncluttered, with most controls and functions easily accessible, and the “seamless windows” feature was remarkably easy to use. After the VirtualBox VM Additions were in place within the host OS, the new feature’s menu option became available in the VirtualBox console window. Turn it on and the console window disappears, replaced by an overlay of the VM’s Start Menu and Task Bar along the bottom of the host OS desktop. Launching an application from the Start Menu causes it to appear in a separate window — one sporting the controls and scheme elements of the guest OS (for example, Windows XP buttons and scrollbars as opposed to the Aero, Aqua, or Gnome/KDE elements of the underlying host OS). In this sense, the integrated windowing is not exactly seamless, but it’s better than nothing. And for Windows/Linux users, it’s the only show in town.

Overall, VirtualBox is a solid update to a valiant effort by a tiny company (20 or so people) to compete with some very well-funded behemoths. The goals for VirtualBox continue to be ambitious, and as with the last iteration I tested, the realization of those goals remains just over the horizon. My advice to innotek: slow down the development pace and spend a few weeks on shoring up what’s already an impressive product, one worth a closer look by anyone seeking an alternative to the VMware hegemony.