Mental Ward

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XP Mode Requirements: Vista-Sized Mistake?

The incomparable Mary-Jo Foley, a columnist with Redmond magazine and ZDNet blogger (and friend), has an excellent post comparing and contrasing Windows XP Mode and Virtual PC.

One of the key things I learned is that XP Mode and Virtual PC are separate products, so Virtual PC won't just be a Windows 7 appendage. I wonder, however, whether Microsoft is repeating bad history here. Consider: for some confounding reason, XP Mode requires virtualization-aware processors from Intel (Intel-VT) or AMD (AMD-V). This makes me considerably less enthused about XP Mode than I was a couple of days ago.

This strategy seems seriously flawed to me. By doing this, Microsoft is almost assuring businesses and consumers that they won't be able to use most of their older, and probably many of their current, PCs to run XP Mode. It's mostly higher-end computers that have virtualization-enabled procs (at least for Intel; AMD has AMD-V across most of its product lines, but far fewer machines run AMD hardware).

In other words, most businesses are going to need a hardware refresh to take advantage of XP Mode. But we're not in an economic environment conducive to refreshes. If, however, XP Mode didn't require virtualization procs, companies could just upgrade current computers to Windows 7 and still have the backwards compatibility XP Mode provides. Alternatively, they could refresh with less-expensive Wintel boxes that don't have virtualization capabilities. Now, if they want XP Mode, businesses need to go the more expensive route -- not a pleasant option in the current economic environment.

One more point -- Virtual PC 2007 and older versions didn't require virtualization-enabled procs. Why does XP Mode, since it's just an upgrade of the same program?

A big issue with Vista when it first came out (besides application compatibility) was the hardware requirements, which were much higher than XP (especially if one wanted the Aero interface). I hope Microsoft isn't repeating that mistake.

Does what I'm saying make sense, or am I out in left field again? Will the virt-tuned proc requirement turn you off of XP Mode? Discuss below or e-mail me your thoughts.

Posted by Keith Ward on 05/06/2009 at 12:48 PM


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