This is what makes one of several differences with VirtualBox. You can keep your credit card in your wallet. Virtual box is licensed under GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2. If you’re not familiar with the GNU it is a lot of legal speak that says you’re not going to get busted for using this and not paying for it.
While free is a great price, no price in fact comes with a price. While a GNU product might be quite stable (think Linux) in terms of not crashing, in English, stable can also mean doesn’t change much.
Generally speaking, that is not an attribute I would assign any GNU software that is under active development. I think it’s safe to say software being actively developed changes about as often as some people change underwear.
It’s fair to say that VirtualBox is missing some of the whistles and bells of its competitors, Parallels Desktop V7 and VMware Fusion V4. However, other than price, it does have some compelling features. Of all the offerings in virtualization, virtual box seems to win hands-down in the sheer number of host and guest Operating Systems it will support.
It even supports DOS as a guest OS (in some cases this may require virtualizing hardware as DOS was designed to read and write ‘to the metal’). If you’re in that boat, you may want to look at FreeDOS. They just released version 1.1 on 2 January 2012.
Certainly some readers are questioning why addressing DOS as a guest operating system is worth a breath. The answer is there is a great number of highly specialized projects and devices that need this commandline operating system.
For example, an amateur astronomer was quite disappointed that Parallels did not have sufficient RS-232 support (serial port) to run his astronomy gizmos. And that only very recently he was able to get software that ran native on OS X and utilized USB. There are others from PBX programming to other industrial apps that need DOS.
While the jump from version 3 to version 4 in VirtualBox sought no speed improvements, the installation process is considerably simpler. You may or may not need the extra USB functionality package.
Early reports from a variety of different testers are reporting few to no glitches.
The manual for VirtualBox is available online and does a pretty good job. It’s not the quality of the Parallels V4 manual, however quite serviceable.
If you want to use VirtualBox in a commercial environment, you need to pony up $50 for a license.