Windows 7 is approaching its official release date not too long from now, and this week Microsoft unveiled one of the "secret" technologies that will ship with Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate.
Called XP Mode or XPM for short, the new feature essentially virtualizes the legacy Windows XP operating environment within Windows 7. That is, users will be able to install all applications that were previously only fully working with Windows XP, on their Windows 7 desktop without having to resort to a dual-boot solution.
Indeed, Windows 7 comes with "compatibility mode" but XPM isn't the same. XPM is actually built on the same platform as Microsoft's Virtual PC 7 product. This isn't the same as running an XP environment through a hypervisor. It was previously believed that XPM would be a Hyper-V client for Windows 7, but it is not.
However, XPM will utilize virtualization technologies in recent processors from both AMD and Intel, such as Intel's VT.
Users will be able to install a Windows XP application, and launch it seamlessly on the same Windows 7 desktop, along side Windows 7 versions of the same application, without actually affecting the core operating system. This fact alone, allows Microsoft to continue to support Windows XP in a virtualized environment, thereby giving legacy support without actually building loads of legacy code into Windows 7. This not only improves Windows 7's stability and speed, but also security.
At this time, Microsoft is claiming that XPM provides near perfect Windows XP compatibility within Windows 7.
Microsoft will include a full license of Windows XP SP3 with every copy of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate for use with XPM.