A window on windows on windows

Today at MMS Microsoft unveiled Windows 7 XP Mode. I also sat in on a presentation pertaining to the various Microsoft Virtualization technologies, which focused on Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V). Brad Anderson’s keynote also touched on related support in SCCM. What’s this all about? Application incompatibility has clearly been a deployment blocker for Vista, and Microsoft needs people to adopt Windows 7. The proposed solution is to keep running XP but also deploy Windows 7.

MED-V is based on the Microsoft acquisition of Kidaro, a small company that provided a layer over Microsoft’s own Virtual PC. MED-V now ships as a component of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), the same product that includes my old GPOVault, now called Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM). Note that MED-V is very different than “App-V” (also part of MDOP) and Hyper-V (part of Windows Server 2008). Yes, the alphabet soup gets a little crazy in Redmond.

The surprise announcement was Windows 7 “XP Mode”, which is a basically copy of Windows XP and Virtual PC licensed for use in Windows 7. It’s convenient to have a licensed copy of XP handy to deal with incompatible apps, but it turns out that you’re now have two operating systems to manage (domain join, update, anti-malware, etc.). And of course if you’re dealing with least privilege app compatibility, you’d be running the user as an admin on the guest OS. This puts you right back where you started. Then there’s the many seams you encounter between the host and the various apps running in the guest. From the response in the audience I think the jury’s still out on XP Mode as a compatibility solution.

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