"I find this exceedingly convenient," said Linda Averett, who leads program management for Microsoft's developer experience team, during a keynote presentation at the TechEd conference in Orlando, Fla.
Averett demonstrated how the hypervisor software that's built directly into the Windows 8 client lets users run a virtual instance of Windows 7, as well as related apps, within Windows 8. That could be useful for development teams who need to see how an app written for one version compares to the other.
"IT pros can check out how things work in different versions," said Averett.
Not only can Windows 8 run Win7 virtually, it can split the display screen so that the same app running in Win8 and Win7 can be shown side by side, to make comparison easier. Averett demonstrated how a Win8, Metro version of the game Cutthroat could be pinned to one side of the desktop while developers ran a Windows 7 version.
"It makes it easy to determine if they'll behave the same way," said Averett.
[ Get expert guidance on Microsoft Windows 8. InformationWeek's Windows 8 Super Guide rounds up the key news, analysis, and reviews that you need. ]
Averett also demonstrated how a Windows 8 feature called Windows To Go allows users to store their personalized image of Windows 8 on a USB drive, and then boot it from an older PC running Windows 7. "It's an IT-sanctioned, pure image that can boot from any piece of hardware," she said. The Windows BitLocker tool is used to ensure the security of the process.
Averett said Windows 8's flexibility and portability will allow businesses to support a wide range of devices with minimal compatibility problems. "You can now feel free in an enterprise to mix and match" new Windows 8 tablets and PCs with older systems, she said.
Also during the keynote, Antoine Leblond, Microsoft's corporate VP for Windows Web services, talked about how developers are already stocking the Windows Store with apps in anticipation of the arrival of Windows 8 systems later this year. Leblond demoed a Metro-style sales app from SAP that leveraged data from Microsoft's Dynamics CRM engine running in the cloud. "Apps are not in a silo anymore," said Leblond.
Microsoft has yet to confirm an official launch date for Windows 8, but it's expected to arrive later this year.
InformationWeek is conducting a survey on Windows 8 adoption. Upon completion of our survey, you will be eligible to enter a drawing to receive a 16-GB Apple iPad. Take our InformationWeek 2012 Windows 8 Survey now. Survey ends June 15.