Microsoft drops hardware hurdle to XP Mode

The company has made an abundance of desktop virtualisation announcements, which include licensing changes for Windows Client Software Assurance customers

Microsoft has released an update that allows XP Mode to run on Windows 7 without the need for hardware virtualisation.

XP Mode, a Windows XP virtual machine that runs in Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate, is designed to let people use XP-only applications with the new version of Microsoft's operating system. Since the virtual machine was launched in October, it has required AMD or Intel chip-level virtualisation to run. On Thursday, Microsoft issued a software update that removes this requirement.

"This change makes it extremely easy for businesses to use Windows XP Mode to address any application incompatibility roadblocks they might have in migrating to Windows 7," Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlanc wrote on Thursday. "Windows XP Mode will of course continue to use hardware virtualisation technology such as Intel VT (Intel Virtualization Technology) or AMD-V if available."

Dai Vu, Microsoft's head of virtualisation marketing, told ZDNet UK that the requirement for hardware virtualisation was "not anything [Microsoft] had created as an artificial barrier", and that Thursday's change was "just an update to the code".

The Windows XP Mode update is available for download from Microsoft's Windows Virtual PC site.

Microsoft also made a series of other virtualisation-related announcements on Thursday. It changed its licensing model for virtual Windows desktops so that from 1 July, Windows Client Software Assurance customers will be able to access their virtualised desktop images for free — a feature that has until now cost $23 (£15) per access device per year.

From the same date, Windows Client Software Assurance and new Virtual Desktop Access licence customers will also be able to use their virtual Windows desktops and hosted Microsoft Office applications on devices outside the corporate firewall, such as home PCs and airport web kiosks.

In addition, the software maker introduced two new features that will arrive in the upcoming first service pack for Windows Server 2008 R2. The first, Dynamic Memory, is a memory management technology within Hyper-V that will let users adjust the memory usage of guest virtual machines, so as to make the most of server hardware.

The second is a technology called RemoteFX, which Microsoft acquired when it bought the graphics firm Calista in January 2008. RemoteFX virtualises graphics processing units on the host server, so as to give remote users rich 3D multimedia functionality.

Microsoft and Citrix also announced that they are building on the virtualisation partnership they established in mid-2009. As part of this, the companies intend to "enhance and extend" the capabilities of RemoteFX using the HDX multimedia delivery technology in Citrix's XenDesktop virtual desktop software.

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