Some of you may know that I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Microsoft and their products, but I do have to say that if what I'm about to tell you is true, this would indeed be a pretty cool development.
"What"? I can hear you saying "Did Craig just say something that Microsoft is doing is cool? Did someone fall and hit his head during an upgrade to Ubuntu 9.04"?
I can assure you that my sanity is well intact, and that you may rest assured that my usual derision of Microsoft is still at optimal levels.
In Windows 7, Microsoft is using something for compatibility that could very well free them from most of the problems they've had with just about every single release of Windows to date. In just about every single version of Windows, there is this compatibility that must be maintained. Unfortunately, that compatibility layer extends to some pretty crufty crap. It's like having to keep all of your old school projects on display on your refrigerator well into your 80s; eventually you're gong to stop seeing the reason for keeping this stuff around, or you're going to have a hell of a time using your fridge.
So what Microsoft is doing for Windows 7 is taking the last version of Windows XP SP3, and incorporating it virtually into Windows 7. They're using the advanced virtualization of modern CPUs to in essence run two machines on your computer. It's called Windows XP mode, and it reminds me of the old System 9 compatibility layer they used on Macintosh OSX when it was released to allow users to run their not-quite-ready-for-OSX programs on their shiny new hardware. It made adoption of the new system much simpler, and allowed Apple the clean-break they needed. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find an OSX machine that requires you to use this mode. Heck, for all I know, it may have been discontinued in 10.5. I don't care, though. It was a crutch, and now with a healthy software base, it's no longer needed.
If Microsoft plays their cards the same way that Apple did, it could finally allow Microsoft to liberate themselves from the endless hacks they've implemented to ensure older software works. This could be a huge win for them, as they'll be able to concentrate on more important things...
...like Ubuntu release parties. :)