Microsoft Updates Windows XP Mode, Partners with Citrix

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Microsoft removed hardware requirements for Windows XP Mode in Windows 7, opening up upgrades to a host of new users. In addition, Microsoft announced a partnership with Citrix Systems that offers a combined desktop virtualization offering for $28 per user. The announcements set the stage for big drop offs in client pricing.

Microsoft has opened up upgrades to its Windows 7 operating system to a whole host of new users by removing the hardware requirement for the use of Windows XP Mode, the technology that enables users to run older applications on the 64-bit operating system.

"It’s a very good development to not require hardware virtualization support as many new computers have more than enough horsepower to run virtualized environments, however, if the hardware support is not there, they may not be able to," MJ Shoer, president of solution provider Jenaly, told Channel Insider. "As virtualization is embraced more at the desktop level, these will be very beneficial for end users, in terms of long term costs and complexities of managing licenses."

The change was one of a handful of Windows 7 and desktop virtualization announcements Microsoft made the week of March 15 that could convince more users to make the move to the new OS. Other announcements included a technology and marketing partnership with Citrix Systems and a preview of the enhancements planned for Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, although no beta or time line was provided.

"Microsoft announcements were a place holder to say we are ready," Stephen Dukker, chairman and CEO of NComputing told Channel Insider, who further pointed out that Microsoft declined to put a time line on it. "Microsoft fundamentally put in motion the dynamics that will put in place within two years a virtualized workstation for under $100.

"The horse has left the barn here. Client devices will begin to plummet in price."

Windows 7's predecessor, Windows Vista, was widely viewed as a flop, as users complained they could no longer use some mission-critical applications on the operating system, such as QuickBooks, because those applications had not been updated for the 64-bit OS. To alleviate the problem, Microsoft included Windows XP Mode in Windows 7, but initially tied its use to hardware virtualization.

"We're announcing an update to Windows XP Mode today that will make it more accessible to PCs in small and midsize businesses [that] want to migrate to Windows 7 Professional but have applications that still require Windows XP," Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc wrote on the Windows Team Blog.

"Windows XP Mode will no longer require hardware virtualization technology to run. This change makes it extremely easy for businesses to use Windows XP Mode to address any application incompatibility roadblocks they might have in migrating to Windows 7."

LeBlanc added that Windows XP Mode will continue to use hardware virtualization technology if it is available.

The Microsoft-Citrix partnership created a VDI Kick Start Promotion that combines Citrix's XenDesktop with Microsoft's VDI and offers the package to businesses for just $28 per user. The strategy is designed to get users into desktop virtualization at a low cost.

In addition, to win customers back over to Citrix desktop virtualization, the companies are offering a promotion in which they will allow customers to trade up to 500 VMware desktop virtualization licenses for the combined Citrix XenDesktop/Microsoft VDI desktop virtualization licenses at zero cost to the customer.

As for SP1, Microsoft said it would introduce two new desktop virtualization features: Microsoft RemoteFX and Dynamic Memory.

Microsoft said dynamic memory is an enhancement to Hyper-V in R2 that allows IT administrators to pool all the memory available on a physical host and dynamically distribute it to virtual machines running on that host as necessary. The technology allows VMs to receive new memory allocations as workloads change without interrupting service.

RemoteFX is an addition to Microsoft's desktop virtualization stack that enhances the quality of video content displays.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com