One of the downsides to the Vista upgrade that I mentioned awhile back was that certain programs (like QuickBooks) would have to be upgraded to work with the new OS, thus increasing the cost.  However, one of the new features planned for Windows 7 is an “XP Mode” (XPM), currently in beta testing, which allows XP-specific applications to run inside the Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise versions.  Interesting move by Microsoft to entice businesses to upgrade, but will it fulfill its promises?  Should an upgrade decision be based on that?  I don’t think so.

An April 26, 2009 post on the PC World blog warns that XPM could be more trouble than it is worth.   It quotes Michael Silver, an analyst with Gartner Inc., as saying that there are two downsides.

“You’ll have to support two versions of Windows.  Each needs to be secured, antivirus-ed [sic], firewalled and patched. Businesses don’t want to support two instances of Windows on each machine. If a company has 10,000 PCs, that’s 20,000 instances of Windows.”

The other downside, he says, is that XPM could be used as a crutch that would lead companies not to be sure that their applications are Windows 7 compatible.  Eventually, the upgrades need to be made, as Microsoft is phasing out support for XP.  In addition, XPM would continue to bog down Windows OSs by making them still run on “legacy code,” which has been a problem for the OS for over a decade.  Finally, XPM does not run on all hardware, so you would have to be very careful about what machines you buy.

My advice?  Bite the bullet now and upgrade your software with the move to Windows 7.  You will be surer of hardware and software support, and will leave behind performance and stability problems created by running legacy code on the latest OS.  It is an investment that will pay off.