Remember that major announcement that was planned for Windows 7 a while back? Well, it's finally here, revealed on Paul Thurrott's Windows SuperSite. So, what is it? It's a feature of Windows 7 called 'Windows XP Mode'.
So, what exactly is this new mode? As you can probably tell from the name, it's a method to provide better compatibility in Windows 7, and to pull it off with as little trouble as possible. It's also dubbed XPM, or formerly Virtual XP. According to Thurrott, "XPM is built on the next generation Microsoft Virtual PC 7 product line, which requires processor-based virtualization support (Intel and AMD) to be present and enabled on the underlying PC, much like Hyper-V, Microsoft's server-side virtualization platform. However, XPM is not Hyper-V for the client. It is instead a host-based virtualization solution like Virtual PC; the hardware assistance requirement suggests this will be the logical conclusion of this product line from a technological standpoint. That is, we fully expect future client versions of Windows to include a Hyper-V-based hypervisor."
XP Mode will bring a Virtual PC-based environment, as well as a fully licensed version of Windows XP SP3, free for all owners of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions. This is good from a commercial point of view. Earlier, Microsoft could happily say that Windows 7 was just as compatible with software as Windows Vista, but now they can add 100% compatibility with Windows XP, too. So, for you IE6 users, you're in luck. Do not expect this to run like a proper Virtual PC; that being, a separate operating system running within a window. XP Mode will integrate itself with the Windows 7 desktop, and so the older software will run just like a normal Windows 7 application. Essentially, this is two operating systems running under an updated desktop.
Thurrott expects to have screenshots up of it running shortly, and also look forward to seeing an in-depth guide of it on Within Windows very soon. Neowin will publish more information as it arrives. Thoughts?