By now you’ve probably read that Microsoft has confirmed that they’ll include a free add-on to Windows 7 Professional and higher that will run Windows XP in a specially-modified copy of Virtual PC for the purposes of application compatibility. Paul Thurrot first revealed the story last week (with screenshots), and it’s been a hot topic on Slashdot since then.
This feature will be called “Windows XP Mode” and should be available with build 7100 of Windows 7 that will be released as Release Candidate next Tuesday. Windows XP Mode will be a freely downloadable add-on and will not be included as part of the Windows 7 disk image.
From a technical standpoint, it looks like Microsoft will deliver this as a Windows XP SP3 VHD file that’s pretty much preconfigured. You just provide a password and configure your auto update settings and stuff and you’re all set! Integration between the Windows XP guest and the Windows 7 host will heavily leverage the investments Microsoft built / bought with the Kidaro / MED-V product, including fully seamless shell integration and an “Auto Publish” feature that will make applications installed into the Windows XP VM automatically available in the Start Menu of Windows 7 in a folder called “Windows XP applications.”
Brilliant? Or brilliantly stupid?
Is this cool or crazy? It’s certainly not a new concept or anything. What’s new is that it will be free and probably easier to configure. There’s a fairly interesting conversation happening on twitter about this right now. Casey Robertson points out that running Windows 7 and Windows XP means 2x the patching. He also wonders whether people will add the Windows XP machines to their domains. And Roger Birong points out that this will just give developers another excuse not to start updating their software.
Who’s Windows XP Mode designed for?
At this point, Microsoft is planning for Windows XP Mode to only be available for editions of Windows 7 that are “Professional” and higher. So that suggests that this is targeted towards business and tech-savvy home users. Of course users of lower level versions of Windows 7 will still be able to use another virtualization product, like VMware Workstation or the free Virtual Box, to run Windows XP as a guest VM on Windows 7. The only difference is that they’ll have to buy or steal a Windows XP license on their own, whereas the Windows XP Mode will have its license built-in. (Actually this could make for an interesting situation. Will a user be able to leverage Windows 7’s virtualization rights and downgrade rights to do this on their own? My guess would be ‘no,’ because editions of Windows 7 lower than Professional probably won’t be licensed to let users running additional instances of the same license in a VM.)
Big enterprise customers who are already paying for MDOP won’t need this feature since they already have access to MED-V. Maybe Windows XP Mode is more for the borderline people who need the extra push to go to Windows 7. Can you imagine the ad campaign for this? “Go to Windows 7. Don’t worry though—you can still have Windows XP!”
I wonder how many people are thinking, “so if I still keep Windows XP, then why exactly am I going to Windows 7 again?”
What are you thinking?