I’ve written about the Zinstall product before: as long ago as August 16, 2010 (Zinstall XP7 Offers Remarkable XP to Windows 7 Migration Capabilities) and again about two weeks after that (zPOD offers interesting extension to Zinstall capabilities). After a conversation yesterday with Mike Stelmach, Executive Director at Zinstall, I learned that the product is finding an interesting niche with organizations in the small to medium sized business (SMB) world, particularly because of its abilities to enable organizations to upgrade to Windows 7, yet still run legacy apps as icons directly from the Windows 7 desktop.
In particular, the following capabilities have proved particularlly attractive, and have fostered what Stelmach called “significant uptake in the SMB marketplace:”
- The ability to run IE6 (with attendant access to browser specific code and information on servers on an organization’s intranet)
- The ability to run custom applications inside a virtual XP runtime environment on the Windows 7 desktop, or to keep legacy databases and related front ends going in the same way
- The ability to keep existing (and sometimes substantial) investments in XP-based Microsoft Mail data and applications running intact on the Windows 7 desktop
When I asked Stelmach to explain why he thought this was generating substantial buzz and interest among SMB players, he likened using Zinstall with a Windows XP virtual environment to “having one’s cake and eating it too.” He went on to opine that “…SMBs don’t often have the resources or the time to undergo wholesale application and infrastructure migrations like real enterprises do.” Zinstall gives SMB’s a way to protect their legacy software and database investments, even as they find themselves forced to purchase new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed. “It’s faster, cheaper, and easier for them to bring their XP-dependent tools and information forward onto the Windows 7 desktop using Zinstall, than it is for them to go through extended porting and migration exercises,” he concludes.
By way of further illustration, Stelmach also furnished me with a testimonial from the Web Communications Director at a large federal agency in the Canadian government:
A few months ago I decided to upgrade a seven-year-old XP install to a new Win 7 box after my hard drive started failing. But I really, really wanted to preserve both my data and the many apps I’d installed and customized over the years — on my new box if at all possible. I looked into various VM options, but none of them met my needs. I wanted to simply transfer my entire 200 gig XP install to some sort of partition on the new machine. And quickly, before my hard drive quit entirely.
I eventually came across Zinstall XP7 through Google. It promised “single click transfer” of my old install to the new one. Frankly, I doubted this was possible. I’ve been working with Windows PCs since Windows was a beta product, and I just couldn’t see how it could be done. But given Zinstall offered a money-back guarantee I thought, why not?
Long story short: the product worked exactly as advertised. I installed Zinstall, cabled the old and new machines together, and pressed ‘Go.’ A few hours later I had an exact, fully functioning copy of my XP install on my new Win 7 box. I could run all my old apps and copy data back and forth between the old and new systems. Mighty impressive. I can’t recommend Zinstall XP7 highly enough. It did exactly what it said it would, and did it without a hitch. I think Microsoft should include Zinstall XP7 with every copy of Win 7 they sell; it would make for a lot of happy Windows upgraders.
Of course, this “OS within another OS” strategy does have a hard-and-fast end date, however, in that MS still claims it will withdraw all forms of extended support for XP in 2014. Whether or not this date holds may depend on how well, and how quickly, the kinds of companies who find Zinstall so attractive get on the ball and actually move their applications and data forward into implementations more directly compatible with Windows 7 (and 8)!