Microsoft has snapped up virtualisation company, Softricity, for an unspecified amount.

Softricity is a key purchase for Microsoft on the desktop side, said Jim Ni, a group marketing manager with the Windows Server team. He said that the company's virtualisation software could reduce application incompatibilities that arise, for example, if a user running Windows Vista on his PC needed access to an application that ran only on Windows 2000 or XP. The user could then access a hosted version on a server rather than having to install the application from scratch, said Ni.

Microsoft has also said that a beta version of its hypervisor for the upcoming Longhorn version of Windows Server will be available by year's end. Microsoft also plans to release a beta version of Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, formerly code-named Carmine, within 90 days.

The upcoming Windows Server hypervisor, which enables servers to run multiple virtual machines with different operating systems, will be integrated with Longhorn and released to manufacturing within 180 days of Longhorn, which is expected to be released in the second half of next year, Ni said.

It will be the successor to Microsoft's current Virtual Server 2005 R2, which works with Windows Server 2003 and which Microsoft made free last month.

As for Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, that tool will be designed to quickly help find machines suitable for virtualisation and should make managing data centres easier, Ni said.

Microsoft expects to release Virtual Machine Manager to manufacturing in the second half of next year.