Microsoft is as eager to promote Windows Vista as some businesses are reluctant to jump ship from Windows XP. When Windows 7 comes out later this year, however, the firm will provide a new tool to help business and enterprise users make the transition smoothly: Windows XP Mode.
According to a post on the Windows Team Blog, Windows XP Mode will effectively will let users run virtualized XP apps within the Windows 7 desktop. The post explains, "All you need to do is to install suitable applications directly in Windows XP Mode which is a virtual Windows XP environment running under Windows Virtual PC."
XP Mode and Virtual PC for Windows 7 will both become available in beta form "soon." Only Professional and Ultimate editions of the upcoming OS will be supported, though.
Paul Thurrott has gotten his hands on a pre-release version of the tool and documented the installation process. In a separate report, he notes that XP Mode will be available as a free download and will take advantage of hardware virtualization features inside newer AMD and Intel processors.
Letting folks run legacy Windows apps in a free virtual machine isn't a new concept, mind you. Microsoft released Virtual PC 2004 for free before the Vista rollout, but even the latest version needs a Windows XP license and media to install that operating system. Judging by the screenshots and description, it looks like XP Mode won't have those requirements—it just won't run on Starter and Home Premium editions of Windows 7.