Tuesday, March 20, 2007

WSJ article on running Windows on a Mac

This is a review of an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on March 20, 2007 called Apple Opens Doors by Running Windows by Nick Wingfield (only available to wsj.com subscribers). The subtitle is: Ability to handle Microsoft operating system may help macs make some inroads.



The article says that you need to buy a copy of Windows to use on a Mac. However, it does not say which version(s) of Windows. There are many versions of Windows as we all know, except apparently the author, who repeatedly refers to "Windows" as if it were a single thing without different versions/editions.

To fill in the blank, the Parallels virtual machine lets you run pretty much all versions of Windows on the Mac, even Vista. In fact, it also supports many versions of Linux and even other Operating Systems such as OS/2. The Boot Camp feature from Apple is very different. It only supports Windows XP Home and Professional. No Media Center edition. No Vista. In fact, it only supports the SP2 versions of XP. And, it only supports the more expensive "full" version of Windows XP, not the cheaper "upgrade version". As of March 23, 2007 CompUSA was selling the upgrade version of XP Home for $100 and the full version for $200. The upgrade version of XP Pro was $200, the full version was $300.

The article refers to VMware as new "virtualization" software and refers to Virtual PC as older "emulation" software. They are, in fact, both virtualization software and compete directly. Not to be too nerdy, but they both do emulation.

The article says both Parallels and VMware on Macs take advantage of Intel chips to make it easier to run Windows. A little of this is true, but it gives the wrong impression.

First, from the user point of view, the process of running Windows is the same whether the software takes advantage of Intel chips or not. There are new features in Intel processors specifically designed for virtual machine software. And giving hardware assistance to virtualization software is also done by new processors from AMD. If you have one of these new processors, and a version of virtualization software that is capable of exploiting the new features, then your virtual machines will run faster. What is made "easier" is the programming job of VMware and Parallels as the processor can now do some of the work the software used to have to do.

Omissions

OK, we're running both Windows and the Mac OS on the same computer. Can they share files?

What about the copy of Windows you run on the Mac? Does it have to be a new copy? Can you take the existing copy on an existing computer and run that on the Mac? If this interests you, read about the transporter feature of Parallels.

The terms Host Operating System and Guest Operating System are not used, let alone defined. They are necessary terms when discussion virtualization software.

What about Linux? Articles on Macs and Windows never mention Linux. Likewise, articles on Linux and Windows never mention Macs. Readers need some perspective.

Windows on a Mac was possible way back, before the switch by Apple to Intel processors. The company that actually developed what is now known as Virtual PC was Connectix. Microsoft bought them out and wasn't very interested in software that ran on Apple computers.

1 comment:

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