When we released Sibelius 7 last summer, the minimum system requirements jumped significantly: on Mac, we dropped support for Macs with PowerPC processors, and specified Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard as the minimum supported operating system; and on Windows, we dropped support for Windows XP. The changes in requirements on Mac didn’t have much of an impact on our customers: Apple have trained Mac users to expect that new applications won’t support many, if any, previous versions of the operating system, and the writing had been on the wall for PowerPC Macs since Apple introduced the first Intel-powered Macs way back in 2006.
But for Windows users, the lack of Windows XP support caused a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly: we looked at the product activation statistics and compared them year over year, and saw that Windows XP accounted for less than 10% of the total of product activations, and that proportion was halving roughly every 12 months. So when we were making the decision about which operating systems to support early in Sibelius 7’s development, and we were weighing up features that would require technology not present in Windows XP, we eventually decided that now was the time for a break with the past, and that we would be cutting off only a small number of potential new customers or upgraders. We expected the noise to die down after a little while, and expected that we would pick up some of those customers again once they had the opportunity to upgrade their systems.
Perhaps the group of customers most inconvenienced by this jump in system requirements has been schools. Typically a school can only afford to upgrade its hardware and operating systems once every three or four years. Even if the school could afford to upgrade to Windows 7 itself, chances are the hardware would need upgrading too. So we ended up cutting off quite a few schools.
So for all of those people still running Windows XP, either by choice or of necessity, we have some good news: the latest Sibelius 7 update, version 7.1.2, now runs on Windows XP. (And the Sibelius Licence Server will also run on Windows Server 2003 once more, too.)
Windows XP users won’t get absolutely the same experience as customers running modern operating systems: there is no DirectWrite text measurement and display, so some of the impact of the powerful new text handling and typography features in Sibelius 7 is lost; there is no support for multi-core CPUs in the playback engine, so performance when running multiple virtual instruments on a multi-core system will be comparable with Sibelius 6, which didn’t have explicit multi-core CPU support; and the Quick Access Toolbar, which normally draws embedded in the document title bar on Aero-based versions of Windows, draws in a strip below the document title bar and above the ribbon.
Finally, Windows XP users should beware the full Sibelius 7 Sounds library, which ideally requires a 64-bit system with at least 4GB RAM to get the most out of it. You can still use Sibelius 7 Sounds on Windows XP, but I would recommend using the Sibelius 7 Sounds (Lite) playback configuration, and sticking to modest-sized ensembles.
If you want to try Sibelius 7 out on Windows XP for yourself, go and grab the updated fully-functional 30-day trial from the Sibelius web site.