Parallels aims to ease move from XP to Win 7

Company best known for its Windows-on-Mac product sees another opportunity for its virtualization tech--easing the transition to Windows 7.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

Parallels, the company best known for a product that lets Apple users run Windows side by side with Mac OS X, thinks it has found another good use for its virtualization technology.

The company has quietly been working on a product that uses virtualization to ease the sometimes painful upgrade process going from Windows XP to Windows 7, CNET has learned. The new product, which will work for both those upgrading an existing machine to Windows 7 or those buying a new PC, uses virtualization to ensure that older programs can smoothly run on the new operating system.

The product is expected to be introduced shortly and available in the coming weeks, according to a source.

Virtualization has emerged as a key technology for easily moving between operating systems, whether its going from one version of an operating system to another or running multiple operating systems side by side. Most of the dollars and interest is on the corporate side, where virtualization can help companies save significant costs.

Although virtualization for its own sake is of interest only to the geekiest of consumers, even the mainstream has gravitated to the technology when it solves a particular problem, much as Parallels' original Windows-on-Mac program did. And Parallels may just have found another interesting niche.

Windows has tools for moving data to a new Windows 7 PC, but the Windows Easy Transfer feature requires that applications be reinstalled. LapLink already has a product on the market that allows programs and data to both be moved, but doesn't deal with what to do when the programs themselves aren't compatible with Windows 7.

Parallels rival VMware has been using the shift to Windows 7 as a chance to sell businesses on the advantages of virtualization.

"It's a forcing factor, a key trigger event for customers to look at virtualization," VMware product marketing director Raj Mallempati said in an interview this week. On the corporate side, Mallempati said virtualization can help businesses cut their migration costs in half.

Mallempati said the savings come when businesses don't go through the hassle of trying to rewrite incompatible applications unless they have to, using virtualization wherever possible. Even more savings in ongoing operating costs, he said, can be had by virtualizing the typical worker's entire desktop. That has the added benefit of letting workers access their computing experience from home and on the road--though it does require consistent access to an Internet connection.

Application virtualization, meanwhile, allows individual programs to be packaged up along with the older operating system components they require and then run within their own bubble, of sorts, on the new operating system.

There are some upfront costs, Mallempati acknowledges, including storage and server costs as well as the virtualization software itself (VMware's ThinApp starts at $5,000, for example).

Mallempati said the company has already seen some pickup in virtualization sales directly attributable to Windows 7 migrations, but said he expects a further boost as companies move from the testing phase to full-scale deployments.

"It's still early," Mallempati said. "Our belief is that once Service Pack 1 comes out--around the September or October time frame--that's when we'll see broad scale migration."