Why Microsoft Windows 7 XP Mode Is a Major Advancement

Windows XP mode will be a major selling point when Windows 7 is released later this year. And it's the single feature that will make most companies jump at the chance to have Windows 7.

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Windows 7 is fast approaching. Microsoft claims it will be better than Vista on almost every count. It will be equally as secure (if not more so), it won't require a high-powered computer to run, and it'll have an improved interface that makes it easier to use. Windows 7 will also have a single feature that will attract the enterprise more than any other: Windows XP Mode.
Windows 7's XP mode is a virtual Windows XP Service Pack 3 installation running on a virtual machine inside Windows 7. Windows XP mode will share the native desktop and Start Menu with Windows 7 and provide the same file type associations for cross-platform support. Any applications installed on Windows XP will show up as apps on the user's Windows 7 desktop, giving them easy access to the software. Even better, the feature will be made available free of charge to Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate users.
When the user fires it up, XP mode will provide them with a full installation of Windows XP. They can access software that's compatible with the operating system. Even hardware that works with older operating systems and won't work with Windows 7 will work with Windows XP mode. It's a major advancement.
But just how will it impact the industry? It's more important than you might think.
Microsoft's Perspective
Offering XP Mode is a major victory for Microsoft. For years, the company has been battling with its own success. How can it reduce all the bloated Windows code, while still maintaining compatibility with legacy versions of its OS? It tried to push users to Vista and it backfired. Companies decided against switching for fear of compatibility issues. Consumers were wondering why their applications and accessories stopped working. It became a nightmare for Microsoft that it didn't quite recover from.
But XP Mode changes all that. It removes that legacy application compatibility issue by running XP virtually in current versions of the OS. Microsoft can finally pare down legacy code it was forced to keep in the operating system to appease customers who used older wares. With XP Mode installed, users will never need to worry about the compatibility of their software or accessories again -- everything will work.
But there's another issue that Microsoft has solved with XP Mode: now, it can attract those corporate customers who wanted better compatibility than what Windows Vista was able to offer. If Windows 7 only had equal compatibility to Windows Vista, why would corporate customers want to switch to the new OS knowing their older applications still won't work with Microsoft's latest release?
With XP Mode installed, Microsoft can finally say that Windows 7 will have the same compatibility as Windows XP. Any application released for a Windows operating system over the past decade will work with Windows 7. That's something Microsoft couldn't say with Vista and it hurt the company. But it can say it this time around. And that could only improve its chances of repairing its relationship with the enterprise.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...