VMware is introducing a new version of its workstation virtualisation product that supports Windows Vista, dual monitors and other features.

VMware Workstation 6 is a hypervisor, a software tool that lets a workstation run multiple operating systems (OSs) and software applications on the same physical machine.

Workstation 6 supports the new Vista OS from Microsoft as a guest or host OS. It also displays an image on multiple monitors, which is important for users in financial services, computer-aided design and other environments. Workstation 6 also features the previously announced ACE Option Pack, which allows a user to store a virtual machine setup on a portable device, such as a USB drive, to transfer to another computer.

The aim in all the upgrades is to improve usability of a virtual workstation, said James Phillips, senior director of software lifecycle solutions at VMware.

"You want to make sure the virtual desktop experience is consistent with a non-virtual desktop experience," Phillips said.

Workstation 6 also features an experimental "record and play" function, which he said records the deployment of a virtual machine and allows a user to rewind to the start of the recording and replay the deployment to see where bugs might have occurred. This would be particularly beneficial in software development because a tester could see where problems developed, Phillips said.

The Workstation 6 for use in a Linux or Windows host OS can be downloaded for $189 (£95), and the ACE Option Pack for $69.

VMware, a subsidiary of storage vendor EMC, is the top-selling software for virtualising servers, workstations and desktop computers. EMC is in the process of spinning off 10% of VMware in an initial public offering of stock. VMware faces competition from less expensive open-source alternatives such as XenSource and Virtual Iron. Also, Microsoft is developing a new Virtual Server product for release later this year.