After allowing Rafael and I to pretty much own the XP Mode discussion for the better part of a week for some reason, Microsoft has finally published some detailed information about this important new Windows 7 feature. I don't normally just republish entire articles like this, but this one is a big deal, so here we go. I am underlining the bits I think are most relevant...
Helping Small Businesses With Windows 7 Professional and Windows XP Mode
Q&A: Scott Woodgate discusses how Windows XP Mode helps customers maximize productivity and manage their technology infrastructure, while migrating to Windows 7. Woodgate also shares how Windows Virtual PC works with Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V).
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. For larger businesses, Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) MED-V 2.0 builds on top of Windows Virtual PC and provides centralized management of Windows XP Mode. MED-V 2.0 will be available in beta within 90 days of general availability of Windows 7.
PressPass spoke with Scott Woodgate, director of Desktop Virtualization and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) at Microsoft, to find out how this new advancement is helping ensure a smooth transition for customers planning to migrate to Windows 7.
PressPass: What are you announcing today?
Woodgate: We are announcing the beta release of Windows XP Mode for Windows 7. Small businesses told us they wanted help upgrading 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.
PressPass: 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.
PressPass: What types of applications are suited for Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC stand-alone?
Woodgate: 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. We encourage ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) and customers to install their applications in Windows XP Mode during the beta timeframe and provide us with feedback on their experiences.
PressPass: Does Windows XP Mode offer any benefits for larger businesses? How does this announcement relate to Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V)?
Woodgate: Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC as stand-alone features are specifically designed for small businesses and provide an unmanaged IT experience. For larger businesses looking to reduce the cost of ownership of deploying Windows Virtual PCs across hundreds of users, Microsoft provides MED-V. MED-V is one of the six components in Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), a dynamic desktop solution designed for better management and control of enterprise desktop environments. MED-V is the management tool for Windows Virtual PC; it builds on top of Windows Virtual PC to run two operating systems on one device. Basically, by adding virtual image delivery and policy-based provisioning, it facilitates centralized management. This is a great tool for IT pros who want to reduce the cost of managing and deploying Windows Virtual PC.
Key features that MED-V provides include centralized management, policy-based provisioning and virtual image delivery. MED-V v1 is available today for Windows Vista and provides management for Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. MED-V 2.0 will be available in beta within 90 days of the general availability of Windows 7 and will be extended to manage Windows Virtual PC on 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7.
PressPass: How do small businesses handle these management tasks?
Woodgate: An important consideration of working with virtualization technology is the fact that the user has both the physical and the virtual PC to maintain. Every PC requires a degree of maintenance including but not limited to keeping the operating system and applications up to date with patches, virus and malware protection, and backup. Windows XP Mode is pre-configured with the Windows XP firewall and to apply updates automatically from Windows Update. It is not pre-configured with anti-virus or anti-malware software, which is recommended. Because of the need to maintain the virtual machine, we recommend everyone make best efforts to upgrade applications to run natively in Windows 7 and use Windows XP Mode only when necessary.
PressPass: How does Windows XP Mode align with Microsoft’s commitment to application compatibility?
Woodgate: With Windows 7, we’ve worked very hard to maintain compatibility with Windows Vista applications. We 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.
PressPass: How can customers get Windows XP Mode?
Woodgate: 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.
PressPass: Does Windows 7 have higher system requirements with Windows XP Mode installed?
Woodgate: Yes. We recommend that customers use Windows XP Mode on a PC with 2GB of memory. We also recommend an additional 15 GB of additional disk space for Windows XP Mode. In addition, Windows Virtual PC requires a PC with Intel-VT or AMD-V enabled in the CPU, as it takes advantage of the latest advancements in hardware virtualization.
PressPass: What have you heard from your customers about Windows XP Mode?
Woodgate: The early feedback we’ve received from customers on the concept is very positive, saying that they value our commitment to helping them manage their business. This new release reinforces our efforts to fuel business success by providing the right tools for our customers to flourish and succeed. By empowering our customers with Windows XP Mode, we are giving them the best of both worlds. They can now conveniently migrate to Windows 7 and move existing applications that may not have been compatible directly with Windows 7.
Good stuff. Nothing new per se (that is, with what we've said about XP Mode specifically), but it's nice to see it all laid out in official form.
Oh, and then there's this follow-up about MED-V v2.0: