Microsoft on Thursday released Windows XP Mode to manufacturing and said it will make XP Mode available as a public download on Oct. 22, the official launch date for Windows 7.
XP Mode is Microsoft’s acknowledgment that many customers skipped Vista and will be moving to Windows 7 directly from XP, an OS that’s now nearly eight years old. Microsoft says XP Mode is designed for SMBs that have been running older or custom-built applications, and it maintains backward compatibility with these apps through a virtual Windows XP SP3 environment running under Windows Virtual PC.
Microsoft VARs like the backward compatibility approach that XP Mode represents, and many have been using XP Mode as a selling point for Windows 7. Still, there are reasons to believe that XP Mode might not have an immediate impact on Windows 7 upgrades.
Customers that buy Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions will get XP Mode as a free download. But they’ll need to buy new hardware, since XP Mode requires PCs with at least 2 gigabytes of RAM and 15 gigabytes of free hard drive space, as well as virtualization-enabled processors from Intel and AMD.
Despite recent signs of economic improvement, it’s worth questioning whether 2010 will see any large-scale loosening of IT purse strings. Given the resiliency of small businesses, and their unmatched ability to do more with less, it’s possible that some will just stay with their XP machines and give XP Mode a miss.