Money down the drain?   There are alternatives (IMO) to Windows 7 and its XP mode feature.
Money down the drain? There are alternatives (IMO) to Windows 7 and its XP mode feature.

Keeping on the theme of Microsoft value, its been reported (although I mentioned the rumor over the weekend on Twitter) that Microsoft will be offering an XP VM mode with its Professional and Ultimate editions.  Great news?  Well yes and no.  Firstly this news to me suggests that  XP is far more important to Enterprise than they have previously admitted (remember the glowing posts saying about the great Vista takeup?)

So what will this mode cost?  Well its free, sort of.  If you have the pro or ultimate version of 7 that is, youll get it as a free download.

This is where I have an issue.  This should be on a version which the average user will be buying (in the main)  If Microsoft are saying that Enterprise are more likely to have a need for an XP mode, I would challenge that.  You simply need to consider the wealth of different programs/packages that home users are downloading/running off the Net which I believe makes the home user just as much in need (if not more) of an XP mode than Enterprise.

A bad move for Microsoft?  Well maybe not.  By offering it for “free” it may encourage more users to opt for the more expensive Enterprise or Ultimate versions of 7 (unless of course you can purchase the addon separately for other versions of 7, of which this is to be confirmed)

With me so far?   Well there are reportedly some other issues with this “free” addon.  Firstly you must have XP installed (so youre effectively dual booting, albeit using the XP compatibility mode alongside 7 (IMO)  This obviously will be taking its pound of flesh from your HD,  but thats OK because as the MS faithful have often said that techs cheap.!?!

As I said on Microsoft Watch prior to getting this news:

“As to what version the XP feature appears in is anyones guess, but one things for sure in my opinion, youll be paying extra for it.”

and thats certainly true if you are a home user who did not want the Enterprise or Ultimate edition and now is only considering purchasing them to get this feature.

XP running on Linux with a VM.  A viable alternative to a Windows 7 purchase?
XP running on Linux with a VM. A viable alternative to a Windows 7 purchase?

SO WHAT ARE YOUR OTHER OPTIONS?

Instead of purchasing Windows 7 there are other options open to you.  The advantage of these is firstly they a free so its not really a risk to you if you wish to try them.  Microsoft likes to mention “value” so I put it to you that one of these options below could actually offer you the value that will save you a considerable amount of money and give you the XP compat you want within a secure Linux environment.

OPTION 1: One of the more vocal MS faithful posters on Microsoft Watch (Ridley) appears to get quite annoyed at this suggestion, so I draw inference that it is a viable suggestion.   Are you upgrading to 7 simply to get rid of Vista and you want XP compat?  If so, its worth considering upgrading to Linux and running XP in a VM.  One such solution:   http://www.virtualbox.org/

OPTION 2: Use a Linux distro with Wine.  Wine is a replacement Windows API that allows a wealth of Windows binaries to run through Linux (and often, as it is reported with better results)  The drawback with Wine is that it does not offer complete compatibility for all Windows binaries, however the project is constantly worked on with new packages/features added all the time. Visit http://www.winehq.org/

Just two ideas, there are more including ReactOS that aims to be a replacement to XP that is fully compatible with it.  For further details on this project visit: http://www.reactos.org/en/index.html

CONCLUSIONS

I believe that the XP mode for Windows 7 says alot.  I think it says that despite what we have read by certain MS faithful posters, Vista was not the sucess of globally championed product in either Enterprise or the home.  I believe that it shows users are still dedicated to the XP platform, else if Vista was so great and popular there would be no need for an XP mode at all.

I also challenge Microsofts decision to have the feature as a free download for Ultimate and Enterprise users.  I put it to them that the home user is just as likely to want XP mode as Enterprise and may not want to pay the higher prices of those versions of Windows 7.

I believe that Chips over on Microsoft Watch may have hit upon a valid comment in relation to VM, Linux & XP.  I think that is why our “faithful MS user ” Ridley openly asked Joe Wilcox to ban both myself and Chips just after it was mentioned.  Ive linked to that thread above, read it for yourself and decide.  Of course Joe Wilcox of Microsoft Watch will not ban either me or Chips.  He said so himself a while ago on a thread, and Mr Wilcox (IMO) encourages and supports free and open debate.

Also consider that it is rumored that 2011 will mark the release of Windows 8, so will that be another purchase you will have to consider in the near future?

Roy from Boycott Novell makes some great points on the whole 7/XP mode subject:

“I can’t wait for Vista 8, which might come with Vista 7 in a VM, which will run Windows XP in a VM (snake eating tail endlessly). They would need lots of RAM for that. But…”

and also says:

But here is the main point: by keeping Windows XP around Microsoft is begging for trouble. In the words of oiaohm, “Microsoft in windows 7 is now forced to virtualise XP. So all the viruses of XP will remain around.”

You can read the whole article here: http://boycottnovell.com/2009/04/27/vista-7-least-secure-os/

To end on a light hearted note, I wonder if Steve Ballmer is planning on one of his hyperactive dances on release day for Windows 7?  If he does, I have a good suggestion for the music for such a routine (and who better to help Mr Ballmer than Spinal Tap?):