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XP Mode in Windows 7 is no cop out

I've been waiting to get my hands on the Windows Virtual XP beta for Windows 7 ever since reading about it on Within Windows. If you're not familiar with it, XP Mode is built on Virtual PC and the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), and is designed as a way to avoid application incompatibilities like those that plagued Vista.

I've read some interesting complaints about it. Things like "XP Mode is simply a way for Microsoft to trick IT administrators into thinking that upgrading to Windows 7 is a better idea than moving to OS-independent cloud services." Or "It's an admission that Windows XP was just fine and didn't need to be replaced."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, it's an acknowledgment by Microsoft that, even on a new OS, old applications must work flawlessly. It also has tremendous cost-saving potential for small and medium businesses. Businesses much like the one where I work.

At my day job, we (like nearly all of our customers) run point of sale software that has a Windows-only client. Windows XP has run just fine, but we're now getting to the point where it will be time for some hardware upgrades. We only change hardware once every five or six years, so I'd like to install mid-range 64-bit desktops that will be able to handle new applications and peripherals over that span - while still being able to run our trusty old POS software.

To see if Windows 7 was up to the task, I rolled out an Ultimate x64 desktop this week. Initially, our software failed to run. Once I installed and configured Virtual XP,however, our POS ran seamlessly alongside other applications without so much as a hiccup.

Despite my success, I'm still willing to listen to suggestions. Find me a web-based point of sale system that is designed to handle Canadian tax tables and payroll and can import all seven years of customer, inventory, and labor data that we have packed into a Pervasive SQL database and I'll convince my employers to switch - with one little caveat.

I'll do it as long as you can pull off this switch for less than $1600, because that's about what we'll need to pay to license Windows 7 Pro on all our machines.

That's the budget. For $1,600, all you have to do is supply the labor required to migrate our eight desktops to whichever OS is a better choice and then get us transitioned to new point of sale software that will "free us from Windows." If you can do that as painlessly as I can upgrade our systems to Windows 7 and XP Mode - and for the same amount of money - I'll hire you tomorrow.

If not, maybe it's time to admit that XP Mode isn't such a bad idea after all. It's certainly going to save the small business where I work a lot of money and headaches, and the same will hold true for numerous others like it.

For a better look at XP Mode, check out Rafael Rivera's posts about XP Mode's inner workings and his brief demo that shows how easy it is to publish virtualized applications.

Tags: osupdates, windows-7, xp-mode