As part of the upcoming Windows 7 Release Candidate milestone, Microsoft will release a beta version of Windows XP Mode, which allows users of Windows 7 Professional and above to launch many older Windows XP productivity applications directly from their Windows 7 desktop. The Windows XP Mode stand-alone feature is specifically designed to help small businesses that are using Windows XP applications move to Windows 7.
Windows XP Mode, an optional feature of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions, helps small businesses upgrade to Windows 7 by providing a virtual Windows XP environment capable of running many Windows XP-compatible business and productivity applications. Customers can run many older Windows XP business and productivity applications within Windows XP Mode and launch them from the Windows 7 desktop with just a single click. A beta of Windows XP Mode will be made available on April 30.
How does Windows XP Mode work?
Windows XP Mode is the combination of two features. The first part is a pre-packaged virtual Windows XP environment. The second is Windows Virtual PC, which is used to run the virtual Windows XP environment. Customers can install their applications into Windows XP Mode using typical installation processes such as downloading from the Web or using the product CD. Once installed, the applications are automatically available on the Windows 7 Start Menu and can be launched just like any Windows 7 program. Optionally, these Windows XP applications can be pinned to the Windows 7 Task Bar and launched using just a single click from the Windows 7 desktop.
Windows XP Mode is best suited for older business and productivity applications such as accounting, inventory and similar applications. Windows XP Mode is not aimed at consumers because many consumer applications require extensive use of hardware interfaces such as 3-D graphics, audio, and TV tuners that do not work well under virtualization today. The sweet spot for applications that run in Windows Virtual PC is business and productivity applications that tend to conform to the basic Windows API (Application Programming Interface.) Small businesses operate under constrained resources and are highly sensitive to the time and expense required to upgrade their PC. Windows XP Mode provides small businesses with the ability to run many Windows XP applications, saving time and expense, but Windows XP Mode does not have 100 percent compatibility with all Windows XP applications. Microsoft encourage ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) and customers to install their applications in Windows XP Mode during the beta timeframe and provide them with feedback on their experiences.
How does Windows XP Mode align with Microsoft’s commitment to application compatibility?
With Windows 7, Microsoft has worked very hard to maintain compatibility with Windows Vista applications. They have an array of tools and resources to help with application compatibility. Virtually all Windows Vista-compatible applications, as well as the majority of Windows XP applications, run unmodified on Windows 7. For those that do not, the Programs Troubleshooter in the Control Panel provides a wizard interface to employ compatibility features that allow applications to run natively on Windows 7. For IT pros the Application Compatibility Toolkit provides finer-grained control over the compatibility features, also referred to as “shims.” When an application cannot run or be natively shimmed, that’s when it’s most appropriate to use Windows XP Mode technology.
How can customers get Windows XP Mode?
Beta testers can download Windows Virtual PC and the virtual Windows XP environment later this week. When Windows XP Mode is released to production, there will be two ways for customers to get Windows XP Mode. The easiest way will be to get it pre-installed on a PC from an original equipment manufacturer or local value-added reseller. This requires minimum configuration and delivers the most compelling experience for small to medium-sized businesses. As an alternative, Windows Virtual PC and Virtual Windows XP will be available as downloads from Microsoft.com for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise customers. Windows Virtual PC requires PCs with Intel VT or AMD-V hardware virtualization technology enabled in the PC BIOS. Windows XP Mode can be installed by anyone with reasonable PC maintenance experience; however, it is definitely easier to acquire via a new PC.