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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

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.