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There's no need to install an Oracle client, all that stuff is already in the database home. You should already have odbc, odp.net, all that good stuff.
You may want to install an additional Oracle home if you do indeed need a separate client installation for reasons like the db home is 64 bit but you need to run 32 bit apps (in which case you need to install a 32 bit client) or if for whatever reason you NEED a different version of client than what is in the database home.
If it's the same version I would recommend using your same ORACLE_HOME for your client, but in a case where you need a separation between the DB OH and your client OH, yes you can install your client to a different location on the same machine, one doesn't affect the other and they can be different versions.
Yes its possible but not neccessary
I have several Win2008R2 installations running where I installed a 64bit database and a 32bit client of the same version (could be also different version).
From my point it works.
if you'd like to try out the instant client, you may install it in a virtual machine.