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Sony's Windows 7 virtualization switch-off (partly) reversed

Vaio buyer beware

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Angry Sony PC customers who've splashed out nearly $2,000 on a new Vaio laptop should give up hopes of running Microsoft's XP virtualization technology in Windows 7.

The consumer electronics giant has said it will enable Intel's Virtual Technology (VT), which supports Windows XP Mode in the forthcoming Windows 7, only on selected Sony Vaio models in the future. The Z series Vaio - priced $1,719 - won't be one of the machines selected.

Until then, Vaio Z users join everybody else buying one of 10 Vaio PC brands that will also be incapable of running Windows 7's Windows XP Mode.

That means customers whose old Windows XP applications don't work with Windows 7 will find their software unlikely to run on Windows 7.

The news comes as Sony gears up for the Windows 7's October launch by pushing the combination of its PCs and Windows 7 on its site here. As an added incentive to buy a new Sony PC, new Vaios are eligible for a free upgrade to Microsoft's new operating system.

Sony squeaked out the policy news on VT support in the Vaio range after it took flack from customers who'd discovered not a single member of the currently shipping Vaio family supports Intel's VT, despite the fact VT is one of the features in the Intel Core 2 Duo mobile processor the Vaios use.

Sony has apparently deliberately blocked the BIOS in all current Vaios from working with hardware virtualization in the Core 2 Duo.

Senior manager for product marketing Xavier Lauwaert blogged that Sony had not enabled hardware virtualization due to "very little if any requests until recently."

He added Sony's engineers and QA people were: "Very concerned that enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC and completely disable the latter."

Unsurprisingly, customers who've purchased Vaios ahead of Microsoft's planned Windows 7 release are now boiling. Many are demanding refunds while others are calling for a class-action suit against a company they claim has not been clear in its advertising given that the Vaio machines are unable to work with a core feature of the Core 2 Duo chips they ship with.

Tempers have been boiling over since Lauwaert wrote an otherwise fluffy post on Microsoft's official Windows blog that enthused about "leveraging" Windows 7 "on our platforms."

He was quickly upbraided in the comments section of the Microsoft blog, with Sony reamed elsewhere here and here.

Answering netizens in the same comments section, Lauwaert outlined the policy change on future Vaios. "With the advent of XP Virtualization, there is impetus for us to relook at the situation and I can share with you that we will enable VT on select models. Though, i fear t [sic] say that the Z series will not be part of our VT-enabling effort," he said.

Lauwaert didn't say when Vaios would ship with VT enabled or whether this would apply to all Vaios apart from the Z. Sony was unable to comment at the time of writing.

Thanks to Reg readers Andrew and Kevin for flagging this up. ®

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