Windows 7 to feature XP mode for older applications

The feature will allow people to run apps built for previous Windows versions as if they are using XP

Microsoft will include a feature that lets people run applications in a Windows XP mode on Windows 7 to ensure that applications not designed for the forthcoming OS can run on it, a company executive said Monday.

During a keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Windows, demonstrated a mode called "Seamless XP" that allows someone to run an application designed for a previous version of Windows on Windows 7 as if it's running on XP.

He showed how the feature works using an older third-party application originally designed for Windows 2000, QuickBooks Enterprise Solution 5.0.

The feature seems similar to Apple's Classic mode, introduced on Mac OS X, that allowed people to run legacy Mac applications on OS X, which was a drastic change to the platform.

Veghte did not give many specifics on the feature, but said that virtualization technology in Windows 7 enables it.

Like Mac OS X, Vista was a major architectural shift from previous versions of Windows, and Microsoft ran into a massive application-incompatibility problem with the OS.

This led many people -- particularly business users dependent on legacy Windows applications -- to stay on XP or downgrade to XP after buying a Vista machine.

Microsoft wants to avoid that problem with Windows 7 when it's released later this year, Veghte said, acknowledging that architectural changes to Vista "came at a cost in terms of compatibility."

"We are making sure Windows Vista to Windows 7 is a smooth migration," he said.

Microsoft seems to have learned its lessons from the disappointment that Vista was in the marketplace.

The company has been diligent during the development process of Windows 7 to let partners, including original equipment manufacturers, business partners and independent software vendors, test and provide feedback on a feature-complete version of the OS much sooner than with previous versions of Windows.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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