Virtual Computer Exits Stealth Mode—Sort Of

9/4/08Follow @wroush

A Westford, MA, startup called Virtual Computer threw off its contentless stealth name on Tuesday (it had been called “Old Road Computing Corporation,” which wasn’t even an allusion to its address, on LAN Drive) and revealed that it’s working on virtualization technology for corporate PCs.

But that’s about as far as the company went. For all intents and purposes, Virtual Computer is still in stealth mode: The company said on its blog that “It’ll be a bit longer before we announce exactly what our product is and does.” If you go to the “products” and “solutions” section of the company’s new website, all you get is a form inviting you to “Register to be the first to hear about Virtual Computer’s upcoming product launch.”

Which all begs the question of what Tuesday’s “announcement” was intended to accomplish. Mass High Tech reported way back in January that the company had received $6 million in Series A funding from Highland Capital Partners and Flybridge Capital Partners (still known at the time as IDG Ventures), and that it was to be led by CEO Dan McCall, a veteran of Verisign and Guardent, and CTO Alex Vasilevsky, a veteran of Thinking Machines, Avid Technology, Ucentric, Motorola, and Virtual Iron—so those parts weren’t news.

Perhaps the only new detail in the company’s press release was that Virtual Computer intends to focus on the corporate laptop market, rather than servers or desktop machines. It called laptops “a huge challenge for IT organizations looking to take advantage of the productivity gains available from virtualization.”

Classically speaking, virtualization technology allows one computer to host multiple operating systems; in server environments, this means companies can run more kinds of applications without having to buy more hardware. It’s not clear how Virtual Computer is applying the virtualization idea to laptops, however.

It wouldn’t be the first company explore this area—Greg recently wrote, for example, about InstallFree, a Stamford, CT startup whose software allows corporate PC users to access a consistent, personalized desktop environment no matter which machine they’re on—but apparently the Virtual Computer founders are convinced that their competitors’ solutions are flawed. “Virtual Computer will be the first to deliver on the promise of desktop virtualization without compromising on cost, performance, mobility, or end-user experience,” the company’s announcement said.

However, McCall did tell Mass High Tech‘s Christopher Calnan, for a story in the publication’s print edition, that Virtual Computer’s software isolates a laptop’s hardware, operating system, applications, and user data and (according to Calnan’s explanation) “create[s] versions on the laptop of those components that operate remotely, without a network connection.”

Personally, I’m baffled about how a component can operate “remotely” without being connected to a network—unless McCall is saying that Virtual Computer’s technology treats each component of a laptop as if it were running inside a separate virtual machine, while remaining accessible to components or processes running on other virtual machines on the same system. That might help create a secure wall, for example, between corporate applications and personal data and settings. But we intend to track down the folks at Virtual Computer and bring you the full story—as soon as the company itself is a little less virtual.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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