Windows XP Mode Needs No Virtualization Hardware

Microsoft's Windows XP Mode, designed to provide SMBs that upgraded to Windows 7 with last-ditch compatibility for proprietary applications that need Windows XP, no longer requires hardware virtualization technology to run. Originally announced as part of Microsoft's partnership agreement with Citrix Systems, the change could make the application more appealing to businesses keeping a tight rein on their IT budgets. Recent virtualization announcements by Microsoft, Citrix and VMware highlight how competitive the virtualization arena has become in a relatively short time frame.

Windows XP Mode no longer requires hardware virtualization technology to run, Microsoft emphasized in a March 18 post on its official Windows blog, the same day it announced a new partnership with Citrix Systems.

"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," wrote Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc. "Windows XP Mode will of course continue to use hardware virtualization technology such as Intel VT (Intel Virtualization Technology) or AMD-V if available."

The update can be downloaded from this Microsoft site. In theory, at least, a reduction in the amount of virtualization hardware would translate into streamlined IT budgeting and deployment for smaller companies that need Windows XP Mode for a few applications.

Windows XP Mode runs applications within a virtualized Windows XP Service Pack 3 environment, and works with Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise Editions. Users are able to access applications running in Windows XP Mode through the Windows 7 task bar by right-clicking, and can choose where to store their Windows XP mode differencing disk files. Microsoft originally built the application to address small and midsize businesses' concerns about the ability of some proprietary programs to port from XP to Windows 7.

Microsoft has also instituted a number of other changes to its virtualization policy. Starting July 1, Windows Client Software Assurance customers will be able to access Windows in a virtual environment without needing to purchase a separate license; also starting on that date, Windows Client Software Assurance and Virtual Desktop Access license customers will be able to access virtualized Windows and Office applications through non-corporate network devices, such as home PCs.

Citrix and Microsoft are also making combined use of their technology assets, such as by applying Citrix XenDesktop's HDX technology to the capabilities of the Microsoft RemoteFX platform.

Microsoft's other recent virtualization initiatives include its Feb. 22 release of two business-focused virtualization applications, App-V 4.6 and MED-V 10.1 SP1 Release Candidate. App-V extends 64-bit support for Microsoft's application virtualization product to streaming applications, and MED-V 1.0 SP1 RC allows applications that either require Internet Explorer 6 or can't be otherwise supported on Windows 7 to run in a managed virtual desktop environment.

A more aggressive part of the Microsoft-Citrix deal comes with the companies' offer to VMware View customers to trade in 500 licenses at no additional cost. For its part, VMware has shifted its competitive profile by offering its VMware VSphere Essentials product package at up to 50 percent off the list price through June 15. The move and countermove highlight how competitive the arenas of server virtualization, centralized management and remote data protection have become in recent quarters.