Back in March 2006, more than two years ago, Microsoft purchased Apptimum, Inc., which had developed two system utilities for transferring programs and settings from one computer to another: the consumer-focused Alohabob PC Relocator and its corporate cousin, Migrate DT. Roughly six months later, around the time Windows Vista was released to corporate customers, Microsoft announced that it would release the software under a new name, Windows Easy Transfer Companion. The stated plan in Redmond, as I wrote back in October 2006, was for an “extended public beta.”
And so the software sat for more than 18 months, available via Microsoft’s Download Center for the curious but otherwise lacking in vital signs. No one from the development team ever blogged about it, as far as I can tell. It never got so much as a mention on the official Windows Vista blog. A brief Utility Spotlight column that appeared in the January 2008 issue of Microsoft TechNet magazine appears to have been just a random flickering of attention from outside the Windows team.
Then, last month, with no announcement, Windows Easy Transfer Companion disappeared from Microsoft’s website around the middle of June. (That’s when my co-author Carl Siechert noticed that the link from Windows Vista Inside Out was no longer working. The download page was unavailable, and the associated KB article returned a 404. On several Microsoft-run forums, I found notes from Microsoft employees confirming that the download was officially unavailable. When I checked in with Microsoft, I hit a brick wall, with a contact explaining that there had been a great deal of turnover and reshuffling on the team, and it was hard to find out exactly who was in charge. I did get official confirmation that it’s “unclear” what shape this functionality will take and when the next public release might be.
Based on this sketchy evidence, I'm willing to bet that Windows Easy Transfer Companion has been abandoned as a standalone product. It’s far more likely that the developers who built the original Apptimum technology have been moved to the Windows 7 team, where they’re probably integrating the technologies they used in Alohabob and Migrate DT into the OS itself. I suspect it’s being merged into the existing Windows Easy Transfer feature, to reduce resistance to Windows 7 from would-be XP or Vista upgraders.
In fact, many of the concepts involved with moving applications between PCs can also pay off in other, more common tasks, such as uninstalling programs, saving program settings, and even providing a common framework for downloading and installing application updates. It's possible that we'll see much-needed improvements in those areas as well.
The other possibility, of course, is that someone looked at the technology, decided it wasn’t worth the time and developer-hours to update, and pulled the plug on the whole project.
Something tells me we won’t know for sure until later this year, when the first big wave of details about Windows 7 should emerge.