Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 will support virtualization on the desktop, allowing users to run multiple operating systems -- including non-Microsoft OSes such as Linux -- at the same time.
The surprise move was disclosed in the "Building Windows 8" blog that Microsoft has been using to inform customers, partners and developers about the vendor's plans for the new desktop operating system. Windows 8 is scheduled for completion sometime in 2012.
Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization software has been integrated with the last two releases of Windows Server, but not with the Windows client-side OS.
"We will support virtualization on the Windows 'client' OS," said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, in the blog post. "Originally released for Windows Server, where the technology has proven very popular and successful, we wanted to bring virtualization to a core set of scenarios for professionals using Windows."
Those scenarios include software developers who work across multiple platforms, servers and client systems; and IT professionals who need to seamlessly manage virtualized clients and servers, Sinofsky said.
Windows 8 support for Hyper-V will provide a way to run more than one 32- or 64-bit x86 operating system at the same time on the same computer, said Mathew John, a Hyper-V program manager who authored part of the blog. "Instead of working directly with the computer's hardware, the operating system runs inside of a virtual machine," John said.
Those virtualized operating systems could include Microsoft's own Windows XP and Windows 7, as well as Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, and others.
Microsoft has picked up the pace of its Windows 8-related announcements in advance of next week's Microsoft Build conference in Anaheim, Calif., where the company is expected to offer more details about the new desktop OS.
There have been reports that at the conference Microsoft might demonstrate Windows 8 running on a tablet computer designed by Samsung. Microsoft has said Windows 8 will run on both desktop and mobile computers, but it has said nothing about what mobile device manufacturers it's working with.