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Virtual Machines, virtualization, emulation, and translation layers are much larger subjects than I want to go into too great detail here. Basically, they can, or are attempting to, run anything from single programs to entire operating systems in an isolated memory area on a host operating system. Installing VMWare Workstation on a Windows host will allow you to run a virtual version of Linux, BSD, and Solaris operating systems, as well as different versions of Windows - for example Windows for Workgroups, 95B, DOS 6.22, or XP on your Windows 2000 or other Windows system. Or, you could run most of these OS's from the Linux version of VMWare on a Linux machine. Microsoft has Virtual PC2004 emulation for the desktop Windows machines and a version for Mac to run Windows called Virtual PC for Mac, and Virtual Server 2005 for serving images on the enterprise network, much as VMWare's ESX and GSX server versions.

Wine is an example of a translation layer - program loader - where Windows program can be run on POSIX compatible operating systems, such as Linux and BSD operating systems. This is a free open source initiative, but there is also an inexpensive commercial version for guaranteeing the use of Microsoft Office products, as well as many other programs like Adobe PhotoShop, on these systems - CrossOver Office.

With emulation - using either software alone, or with an add-in ROM card - you can run OS's that are meant to run on a different hardware architecture, such as an Amiga, a Nintendo, Atari, Sega, Sony Play Station, and of course - Game Boy - or a PowerPC version of Linux, or a pre-OSX MacIntosh version on an x86 based computer without having to have it compiled especially to run on that system. PearPC is an example that emulates Power PC architecture to allow guest OS's compiled to run on PPC architecture to run on the x86 architecture in either Windows or Linux/BSD host OS configurations.

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