If you've ever used VMware Player, or VirtualBox, or Windows 7's XP Mode, you'll know all about VMs, or Virtual Machines. A VM is a complete computer, stored as a hard disk image that you can "play" on any suitably equipped computer. One benefit of VMs is that one physical computer or server can run lots of VMs at the same time, so companies that used to have rooms-full of servers can now just have one or 2 high-powered computers instead.
The screen shot below shows me running OpenOffice on my PC. This copy of OpenOffice isn't installed on my PC. It's actually a VM. The really clever bit, though, is that the files which comprise the VM aren't stored on my PC either. They're on a web server somewhere, and that copy of OpenOffice is running in my web browser.
The technology behind all this used to be from a company called Xenocode, but which recently re-branded itself to the much more friendly Spoon (www.spoon.net). For a few thousand dollars, your company can buy a Spoon Server. Install all your favourite Windows apps on said server, and your employees can access them via a web browser. This means that the staff PCs no longer need to be particularly powerful, and your tech support people no longer need to look after those PCs because all the hard work actually takes place on the server.
If you don't have a few thousand dollars for your own Spoon server, though, there are hundreds of applications installed on the company's demo servers at www.spoon.net that you can use for free. This includes lots of games, including 30-minute demos of commercial offerings. There are also numerous productivity packages, such as the aforementioned OpenOffice. There are also lots of web browsers too, so if you're a web developer it's a great way to do some cross-browser testing of your own sites.
To use Spoon you need to download and install a hefty 26 MB browser plug-in. It works with IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera, and runs under all recent Windows versions (32- and 64-bit). Mac support isn't currently available, but may be so in the future.
Thanks to reader Keith Barnett for alerting me to this great site. If there's a Hot Find you want to tell me about, see http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/submit-product-review.htm.