A couple of years ago I blogged about the work we'd done to integrate Workstation with the Eclipse IDE. A few months after that I happened to fall into conversation with one of our partnership engineers while taking the shuttle to work. Hearing about the Eclipse plugin I'd written, he grew excited at the prospect of partnering with Java tools developers to build on this foundation. Over the next few months we chatted about this casually, tossing around various ideas. And then one day he came to me with a concrete proposition: a company called SpringSource was interested in working with us on this front.
SpringSource is well-known in the Java world and we felt it would be beneficial to customers of both companies if they could leverage the power of virtualization in their development process. To that end, a bunch of people from both companies got together a couple of times to hash out the technical, legal and business details of such a partnership. SpringSource assigned one of their excellent developers, Christian DuPuis, to the project and two of us from VMware agreed to help him get started using the Java bindings we'd created for the VIX API that lets 3rd-party software manipulate VMs.
This week the fruits of these efforts finally came to bear when we announced the preliminary results of this collaborative work. I hope that Java developers are excited about what we have in the works for them.
About two years ago, we conducted a survey of VMware Workstation users. While looking at the results we discovered that some of the common complaints included being unable to increase the screen resolution of VMs and having no idea how to “ungrab” the mouse after clicking inside the VM’s console. This surprised us because both those issues are solved trivially by the installation of VMware Tools, which includes device drivers for the virtual hardware we present to the guest OS. After some initial head-scratching, we realized that users hadn’t been installing our Tools software! Guessing that users simply weren’t aware that this was necessary for a good experience, we attempted to gently educate them about the benefits of installing VMware Tools and providing more convenient access to instructions for doing so. Although that was a decent stopgap measure for Workstation 6.0, we knew that we could do better.
Meanwhile, in usability studies and during contextual inquiries we kept noticing that being asked to select the guest OS while creating new VMs frequently gave users the impression that the VM would already have the selected OS installed on it at the end of the process. Users kept powering on their new VMs and feeling like something had gone wrong because there was no guest installed on them. Again, we made a small change to the New VM wizard that informed them of the need to install a guest OS on their VM once it had been created. Not long after this, however, VMware Fusion shipped with the ability to install certain new versions of Windows onto a VM automatically. The feature was a big hit and we realized that we could incorporate it into the next release of Workstation as part of our effort to streamline the process of creating new VMs.