As Microsoft continues to refine their Windows XP Mode application designed to run virtually within Windows 7, the company is also explaining the purpose of the Mode option. If you are not familiar with how this works, it is rather simple. For those users who purchase Windows 7 it is best described this way:

Announced last April and issued as a beta several weeks later, XP Mode creates a virtual environment using Virtual PC, Microsoft’s client virtualization technology, then stuffs it with a pre-activated licensed copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), the current version of the 8-year-old operating system. Users can launch XP applications within the virtual machine from the Windows 7 desktop, and those programs appear in Windows 7 windows, rather than in a windowed virtual machine.

But there has been some confusion exactly why Windows XP Mode is being made available and Microsoft has clarified the purpose of the XP Mode module. In a recent article, Scott Woodgate, director of Windows enterprise and virtualization strategy, describes it this way:

“XP Mode is for those situations when users have tried [running XP applications] on all the other avenues,” Woodgate said in an interview today. “It’s the last mile for XP compatibility.”

Woodgate acknowledged that Microsoft had not made that clear months ago when it unveiled XP Mode. “We always had that clearly in our minds, but we didn’t articulate it to customers,” he said. “Windows 7 is always going to be the better choice for running XP applications.”

Many XP applications will run “just fine on Windows 7,” Woodgate claimed. “The best experience will be running XP applications on Windows 7.”

In a blog post announcing XP Mode RC this morning, Woodgate noted that many XP programs run in Windows Vista, and because Windows 7 uses the same underpinnings as its immediate predecessor, those applications should also run without problems in the new OS. “In most cases, we recommend running applications natively in Windows 7,” Woodgate said in his post.

So it would appear that users are being encouraged to try their older applications using Windows 7 first, prior to just using Windows XP Mode. This makes sense since as stated, the application may work just fine in Windows 7.  Microsoft is still not going to offer Windows XP Mode to users of Windows 7 Home Premium. Woodgate also states that:

Microsoft has not changed its plans to offer XP Mode to users of Windows Home Premium, Woodgate added. “This is not a typical consumer thing,” he said. XP Mode RC is available only to users of Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise, either pre-installed on PCs by computer manufacturers or as an after-market free add-on. Hewlett-Packard Co. is one of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that has promised to install it on the machines they sell, Woodgate said.

So if you have reason or need to use older software that may still require Windows XP and you have decided to upgrade to Windows 7, just be aware of what version you will need to purchase in order to qualify for Windows XP Mode.

Comments welcome.