Microsoft this week started explaining its upgrade strategy for business customers to Windows 7. The situation is, if you are running Windows XP or 2000, there is no direct upgrade path to Windows 7. Also, users of these older versions of Windows must take into account compatibility issues with custom in house or commercial applications. The truth is, if you are currently having issues with an application on Windows Vista, its most likely to continue having problems with 7 since Windows 7 is based on Windows Vista SP1/Server 2008 SP1 kernel.
So what’s a user to do? In Windows 7 the compatibility process itself is handled through a number of avenues, which include the Windows Upgrade Advisor and Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) to help customers assess application compatibility. For untested or in-house developed applications, Windows 7 provides a number of in-box compatibility aids. For example, if an application fails to install because of a hard-coded version check, the Program Compatibility Trouble-shooter can automatically fix the problem (with the users consent) and rerun the installer. Windows 7 includes an expanded application shim infrastructure and Problem Steps Recorder that people can use to capture compatibility issues for evaluation by technical experts.
Personally I would have like if Microsoft could bring their investments in the MED-V application virtualization solution to make compatibility a thing of the past. With MED-V, isolation enables each application to have its own virtual registry and run in its own virtual environment. I personally have been testing Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization beta which is frustrating to setup and configure. This is a possible solution for users who are still on Windows XP or 2000 with applications that work best in these environments, what MED-V does is virtualizes these environments to provide a compatibility layer in (Windows Vista 32-bit only right now) so businesses can continue running applications within these environments without any penalties while taking advantage of the new capabilities of the latest version of Windows.
Unfortunately, this is limited to just Enterprise Customers who are signed up for Microsoft’s Volume Licensing agreements. For consumers, its a choice between finding new versions of your applications or running them in Windows XP or 2000 in Virtual PC or VMWare Workstation on top of Windows Vista or 7. As for no upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP or 2000, its not going to happen, I find it trivial in fact. Why? Well, it is well researched that upgrades are often the result of most failed installations of a new operating system. Especially for a an OS that is 2 to 3 generations behind. Users running Windows XP now can find a costly solution now by moving to Windows Vista and then upgrade directly Windows Vista. Windows Vista customers will be eligible for direct upgrades including users of 64-Bit versions of Vista to Windows 7 and its respective platforms. Customers of Windows XP though are eligible for the upgrade rights to Windows 7 which is the good part of migrating to the new OS. Yes, its a bumpy decision when you take into account the time consuming process of backing up files, reinstalling applications and reconfiguring settings. But I believe it works out to a much cleaner experience that will guarantee the user stability and reliability.