CRN (among several others) has news on the coming acquisition of “significant assets” of Connectix by Microsoft. Connectix main claim to fame in the Mac world is its Virtual PC emulation software. They’ve branched out to produce other emulators recently, so much so that the CRN article talks mostly about their Windows products.

The general gut-level reaction in the blogosphere seems to be distrust. The SlashDot crowd seems to think that they’ll cripple the products to restrict them to boot only Microsoft OSes. Dori Smith at Backup Brain can’t see Microsoft supporting Virtual PC in the long term. Michael Tsai and both think that they bought Virtual PC to kill it (just like in the Bungie case).

On the other hand, Glenn Fleishman writes:

‘ll be curious to get Apple’s reaction, but this is certainly a strong indication of Microsoft’s continued commitment to development on the Mac platform – or possibly an escape plan. If they tweak Virtual PC to work fast enough, they could just develop Office for Windows and bundle Virtual PC with it as the Mac version…

Paul Bissex at Forwarding Address: OS X also sees this as an attempt by Microsoft to increase their revenues on the Mac side.

On the gripping hand, Bill Bumgarner takes a different tack:

It is interesting to note that Microsoft has now positioned themselves to move forward in a similar fashion as has Apple with its transition from OS 9 and prior [Classic] to Mac OS X.

That is, Microsoft does not have to worry as much about backwards compatibility because they now have the basis for an excellent black box within which “legacy” applications can run in a more traditional environment.

In other words, Virtual PC (both for Mac and for Windows) would be Microsoft’s “Classic” compatibility box, and an opportunity for them to continue selling present and past OSes both for Macs and for new Intel platforms, into the indefinite future. They can even do what Apple did, and abandon binary compatibility completely. This may even be Microsoft’s tactic for easy transition into 64-bit architectures and the new DRM (mis)features…

I personally think this might be the most favorable scenario. I’ve met Dan Crevier (the current head of Microsoft’s Business Unit) before he went to Microsoft, and he’s both competent and a great Mac fan. If he hasn’t thought of this before, he’ll certainly give it due consideration now.

Also, Virtual PC’s current performance on any but the fastest Macs – somewhere between glacial and just barely adequate for some restricted tasks – will certainly be much improved after some tweaking by people with access to the Windows source code. After all, this is an opportunity to sell Windows to a group of users otherwise lost to Microsoft; if they made it a little faster, halved prices, and bundled some of the applications that switchers regret leaving behind, sales of Virtual PC would easily double or triple – at little extra cost to Redmond.