eWEEK Labs' early tests of Windows 7 RC 1 show that the operating system installs and runs quickly and efficiently; is highly polished for this stage of development; already supports a wide array of hardware; and is obviously rich with security, connectivity and usability features when compared with either Windows Vista or XP. However, Microsoft's method for dealing with application compatibility--Windows XP Mode for Windows 7, or XPM--leaves something to be desired.
Microsoft officials proudly proclaim that the Release Candidate landmark of
the Windows 7 development cycle represents a good time for businesses to start
evaluating the new operating system in a production environment. While the
code made available to this point seems strong enough to warrant this level of
in-depth appraisal, I suspect IT implementers will quickly find too many
questions unanswered to gain a firm grip on the role the new operating system
can play in the enterprise-or if it has a role at all in the near term.
In my few days with the new version, I've found that the release candidate
(Build 7100, available now to MSDN and TechNet subscribers and to the public on
May 5) installs and runs quickly and efficiently; is highly polished for this
stage of development; already supports a wide array of hardware; and is
obviously rich with security, connectivity and usability features when compared
with either Windows Vista or XP.
But with the issues of application compatibility and licensing still not
addressed in a manner companies can test, and with Windows 7's deep ties
to the forthcoming Windows Server 2008 R2 to consider (not to mention the
moribund economy), potential implementers may find it difficult to find the
value in the new OS, despite its obvious improvements.
Application compatibility, or lack thereof, was one of the torpedoes that
sank Windows Vista-too many users and organizations found that operating
system's security implementations broke mission-critical legacy applications or
devices. As Windows 7 is built with the same security fundamentals in mind
(including User Account Control, Address Space Layout Randomization and Kernel
Patch Protection), Microsoft had to address the issue head-on with the new OS,
to ensure customers a seamless transition to the new platform.
The announced solution-Windows XP Mode for Windows 7, or XPM-runs a
virtualized instance of XP Service Pack 3 within Windows 7. Customers
licensed for the right version of Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise
or Ultimate) will be able to download the software, which includes a copy of
Windows XP SP3 and a license to run it virtually. Integration with the
host operating system should be present, and users can expect to be able to
launch virtualized applications directly from the host interface (similar to
what one could do with VMware Fusion's Unity mode on a Mac).
As pointed out here
XPM is fraught with security concerns. Indeed, it appears that the XPM VM
needs to be managed as a separate node on the network, and will require its own
patch management and management software
. But that's just the tip of