Microsoft to provide 'XP Mode' with Windows 7

Microsoft is publicly acknowledging a new XP virtualization technology it is readying for Windows 7 that two Windows experts first revealed late on April 24.

Microsoft is publicly acknowledging a new XP virtualization technology it is readying for Windows 7 that two Windows experts first revealed late on April 24.

On Friday, bloggers Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera posted about a new technology Microsoft is readying for Windows 7 users that is designed to allow them to run legacy Windows XP apps via PC virtualization technology. (This is the rumored "secret feature" Microsoft was working on for Windows 7 that some have called "Virtualized XP.")

Later that evening, Microsoft admitted the existence of this feature in a Windows Business blog post entitled "Coming Soon: Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC."

Microsoft's post doesn't say much about the new feature, other than it will be aimed primarily at small businesses and will allow "suitable" applications to run on Windows 7. A beta of both Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 (Professional and Ultimate Editions only) are coming soon, the Softies said.

Neither of these new technologies seems to be in the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) build that a number of testers began downloading via torrents at the end of this week, and which is due to go to MSDN and TechNet subscribers on April 30 (something Microsoft also is now acknowledging publicly). The public will be able to download the RC as of May 5.

It will be interesting to see how -- and when -- XP Mode and Virtual PC are delivered in final form. Will they be for Software Assurance customers only (the only way that Windows customers currently can obtain Microsoft client-virtualization technologies like App-V and MED-V)? Will they be delivered as free, out-of-band updates for Windows 7 -- the way Hyper-V initially was for Windows Server 2008?

If Microsoft does maintain its policy of making XP Mode a volume-license-only benefit, everyday consumers won't be able to get it (other than on work machines).  But that possible limitation aside, if XP Mode works as it sounds like it's designed to, it could provide MIcrosoft customers with one less reason to hold off from upgrading from XP -- namely, application incompatibility. It also could provide Microsoft with a way to try to convince customers that buying a higher-end, pricier version of Windows 7 makes more sense than going with Starter Edition or Home Premium, the versions likely to be favored by the netbook set....