Windows 7 desktop virtualisation opens new possibilities
Microsoft Windows 7 brings new levels of virtualisation to the desktop. This includes natively booting from virtual hard disks and XP Mode. Both open exciting new possibilities for enterprise deployments and software distribution.
Microsoft has previously offered virtualisation products in the past in the form of Virtual PC and Virtual Server, albeit with limitations. Only editions of Windows Server 2008 ship with built-in virtualisation support.
With Windows 7 Microsoft is bringing virtualisation to more and more folk, built in to the desktop operating system for the first time.
One facet of this is Windows XP Mode (or XPM) which runs a genuine instance of Windows XP within Windows 7. This feature has no doubt been occasioned by the bad acclaim Windows Vista received causing much head scratching in Redmond about how to encourage users to move on from the safety blanket that Windows XP has become.
By making XPM an inclusion in Windows 7 Microsoft can effectively give users encouragement that their Windows XP apps and games will still work fine. Even if they don’t run natively, they’ll run within XPM.
However, XPM is only available in the professional and higher Windows 7 editions. Further, it requires a processor that has native virtualisation support implemented in its silicon. For many home users neither of these pre-requisites will be the case.
For enterprises it’s a different matter, with basic and home editions of Windows 7 being unsuitable anyway due to their restrictions in the way of participating in corporate domains.
Consequently, XPM may offer business users a means to ensure legacy desktop applications continue to be available while simultaneously deploying modern infrastructure.
XPM might also present creative solutions to other problems allowing, for instance, two different versions of Microsoft Office products to be installed and working at the same time.
Virtualisation is clearly an important part of Windows 7. Microsoft have already spoken at length about how Windows 7 will let you create virtual hard drives (.vhd files) through the operating system, and then boot from these. This will make running multiple operating systems much simpler. There won’t be any need to worry about disk partitioning; just create virtual hard drives and boot from these, loading on whatever OS you want. With this latest news, you don’t even need to do that to run Windows XP programs.
Windows 7 is shaping up to be an impressive release with a remarkable and even innovative feature set. I’m sure Microsoft will be pulling out all the guns to make certain Windows 7 turns the tide of perception back around. Now they can definitely lure the Windows XP stayers with a promise of complete compatibility.