Mary Jo Foley reports that Microsoft’s virtual XP Mode has been released to manufacturing and will be generally available with Windows 7 on October 22. You may recall that when Microsoft revealed XP mode for the first time in May, it appeared to be lagging Windows 7.
The idea here is for XP Mode to provide a 32-bit virtual XP machine on Windows 7 for running legacy Windows XP applications that for one reason or another did not run on Vista and presumably would fare no better on Windows 7. I have personally run into several small business applications that misbehave oddly on Vista (not counting the numerous device driver incompatibilities which XP Mode won’t fix) and I’ll be interested to see if XP Mode will help. Yes, the vendors that create these applications should fix them, but that is cold comfort for small business users that depend on them. The same also applies to larger enterprises that create their own applications in-house and have been daunted by the task of converting them to Vista/Windows 7.
Note that XP mode will only be available as an add-on for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise customers who are using PC’s with microprocessors that support hardware virtualization (Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) or AMD Virtualization (AMD-V)) and not all recent PC’s qualify. Ed Bott explains and provides an Intel list with some AMD lists in the comments. Moreover, even if your microprocessor supports hardware virtualization, your PC vendor has to support it in BIOS as well. If you absolutely need XP Mode, you might well be better off waiting to buy a machine with it preloaded unless you are willing to wade through the swamp.
It’s been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
The Chrome OS is based on Linux and will run on both x86 and ARM microprocessors and Google claims to be "working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year." Google’s vision is of a Web operating system running a browser and running Web applications within that instead of traditional PC applications. As for overlap with Google’s Android operating system seen mostly on cell phones, here’s the official delineation:
Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems.
Assuming that Google’s vision of a Web operating system and applications appeals to budget netbook buyers as much as shaving the Windows XP license fee, it will definitely impact Microsoft’s Client operating system business which has already been hit by netbooks running the low-priced Windows XP instead of Vista.
However, that is a big assumption since many netbook purchasers are buying them as cheap notebook PCs and expect to run the usual local PC applications (open source or otherwise). As for regular notebook and desktop PC buyers, it harks back to the Linux versus Windows competition for client PCs which so far has not been overly kind to Linux. Still, Google gets points for making things interesting for Microsoft and perhaps they will actually make inroads onto Microsoft’s turf.
Last week Microsoft revealed to selected members of the press their plan for downgrades to Windows 7. Probably least interesting is that for ordinary PC buyers:
According to Microsoft, those buying the Professional or Ultimate editions of Windows 7 with new PCs from OEMs will have the option to downgrade to the XP Professional edition only, provided that the PCs get purchased before April 22, 2011.
A Microsoft spokesperson explained in an e-mail on Wednesday that the XP downgrade option will be in effect for "PCs that ship within 18 months following the general availability of Windows 7 [namely, before April 22, 2011] or until the release of a Windows 7 service pack, whichever is sooner and if a service pack is developed."
I expect that most consumers don’t care and that this is mostly of interest to small businesses that have some compelling reason to stick with XP for a while. Most usage of downgrade rights in my experience is by large enterprises with volume licenses and IT shops that install custom preloads on their PCs. For them, it’s business as usual:
The rules are a little different for those buying Windows 7 through Microsoft’s Windows Volume Licensing program. If they pay extra for Microsoft’s Software Assurance program, they have "full flexibility to upgrade or downgrade their PCs to older or newer versions of Windows," according to the Microsoft spokesperson.
The ability to downgrade Windows is of particular importance to organizations that need to run older so-called "legacy" applications. These organizations may use custom-built applications running on XP and may need more time before upgrading the OS, either for technical reasons, budgetary reasons or both.
XP is still the primary Windows OS choice among enterprise users. Just 10 percent of enterprises switched from XP to Vista, according to Forrester Research.
Nobody ever got fired by sticking with Windows XP. We’ll see if and when Windows 7 changes the enterprise rules.
Today Microsoft Corp. has reached a significant milestone with the Release Candidate (RC) of the highly anticipated Windows 7 operating system, now available for download to MSDN and TechNet subscribers at http://technet.microsoft.com. Broader public availability will begin May 5 on the Microsoft Download Center at http://microsoft.com/downloads.
As for what’s new, Microsoft did reveal a virtual Windows XP mode to apparently alleviate lingering Vista compatibility problems presumably for business users (e.g. ):
Utilizing Windows Virtual PC, Windows XP Mode allows Windows 7 users to run many Windows XP productivity applications, launched right from the Windows 7 desktop. Windows XP Mode will be available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate customers via download or, for the best experience, pre-installed directly on new PCs. As part of today’s announcement, Microsoft is releasing the beta of Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC.
Windows 7 Enterprise users also get XP mode as part of a broader management package. Note that the Windows XP mode seems to be lagging the rest of Windows 7 as it is only labeled a beta.
So if there are no show stoppers discovered in the release candidate, when will Windows 7 be released? Microsoft isn’t saying, but there are lots of signs and portents like the following:
Although Microsoft Corp. refuses to name a delivery date for Windows 7, it could launch the new operating system as early as August, according to timeline comparisons of significant dates for Windows XP and Windows Vista.
Acer has confirmed that Windows 7 will be available pre-loaded on their new all-in-one Z5600 PC from the 23 October 2009, not by the end of January 2010 as Microsoft has been previously suggesting.
Acer also confirmed to us that any Vista-based models purchased in the 30 days prior to this date will be eligible for Microsoft’s free upgrade programme.
It looks like Microsoft will actually hit the Christmas shopping season.
Finally, while the general expectation is that Windows 7 will finally be the replacement for Windows XP that Vista wasn’t, Microsoft is apparently allowing OEMs more time to offer Windows XP as a downgrade although it isn’t clear whether this applies to Windows 7 as well as Vista. More ominously for the severely limited Windows 7 Starter Edition, Microsoft is allowing netbook manufacturers to install Windows XP for a full year after general availability of Windows 7.