VMware has released a virtual PC single software download.

ACE, a product the company says enables IT desktop managers "to rapidly provision a customised, secure and standardised PC environment to any unmanaged endpoint" is a virtual PC that can run as an isolated environment on an existing system. It is also the company's first move into the application level of the technology.

An IT manager can now apply enterprise IT policies to a virtual machine containing an operating system, enterprise applications and data to create an isolated PC environment. This in theory then allows an IT manager to control desktop lifecycles, secure enterprise information on PCs and enforce compliance with IT policies, while maintaining end-user autonomy.

Applications include the ability to allow contractors, telecommuters and other outsiders to access corporate networks but within a secured machine. Laptop users can protect their data by securing it within an encrypted VMware ACE environment. As such, the system helps prevent theft, tampering and unauthorised duplication of applications, data, system settings and files, the company said.

Standardised PC environments could also be enforced, allowing IT desktop managers to avoid supporting hardware-specific images for PCs.

Examples where the technology will prove useful include educational establishments where, for instance, laptops are dished out to students for the duration. If they can only access networked resources using the locked virtual machine, it protects both them and the school or college.

From a commercial perspective, it also means that key competitor Microsoft has two catch-ups to make: its own virtualisation technology works only with Windows, and it has no equivalent to ACE, even given that limitation.

First announced in September but now available, the VMware ACE Starter Kit is available for $995 and includes ACE Manager and four VMware ACE client licences for end-user PCs. Additional VMware ACE client licences are available for $99 per licensed PC. A full-featured 30-day trial version can be downloaded directly from the VMware website.