Well you learn something new every day, thank you to William Lam for this little nugget of infomation
We all know that linked clones in Lab Manager and VMware View have not been supported on vSphere (yes this is slowly changing), well it appears that is not the case! It seems that Linked Clones are available and supported via the vSphere API, have a read of Williams thoughts here:
Further, VMware have written a whitepaper on how this black magic (read newly introduced functionality) hangs together, which can be found at:
So while it was perviously true that Linked Clones were only available via Lab Manager and then View, this goodness in now available via scripting to vSphere.
And finally to complete this linked clone goodness William has also writen a couple of scripts to utilise Linked Clones via Service Console/Busybox console for pre-ESX(i) 4.0 which can be found at: