Microsoft made the release candidate of Windows 7 available today, if you’re a TechNet or MSDN subscriber. (The rest of us will have to wait until May 5.)
The really good news is that Windows 7 will include “XP Mode”: a fully licensed, virtualized copy of Windows XP. XP Mode will be available as a download for users with Windows 7 Professional and up. As Jeff Atwood notes:
The attraction of virtualizing older operating systems is that it throws off the eternal yoke of backwards compatibility. Instead of bending over backwards to make sure you never break any old APIs, you can build new systems free of the contortions and compromises inherent in guaranteeing that new versions of the operating system never break old applications.
XP Mode should mean that Windows 7 is completely backwards-compatible with XP, and should also mean that Microsoft can start removing the older cruft from the OS that is currently only there to ensure backward-compatibility.
I’m looking forward to checking out Windows 7. Are you?