Will future Intel-based Apple Macs offer multiple OS worlds via virtualization?

“Intel has launched this week the beginnings of its future line of processors that will support ‘virtualization.’ These new chips are known as Intel Pentium 4’s 672 and 662. Essentially virtualization technology (or VT) enables a processor to run multiple operating systems or applications in independent partitions, or what is often called ‘containers,’ on the same chip. This type of technology has been around for years on big iron servers from Sun Microsystems and IBM, for example. Intel is not creating anything new in that regard,” Architosh writes. “However, what is new is this type of technology inside of a typical personal computer. And this begs the question: was this part of the consideration in Apple choosing Intel?”

“Today Apple has mastered the art of moving from one computer user’s space to another with its graphic cube effect. This is commonly known as Fast User Switching and is a system preference in Mac OS X,” Architosh writes. “But [can you] imagine a world wherein you can cube the cube? Imagine that each user account can have multiple instances of operating systems (perhaps OS X and Windows, or Linux and OS X) running simultaneously. From the Apple menu a user would select an OS environment and an Expose cubic switch would literally swing around a different OS environment, just like today’s Fast User Switching.”

Architosh writes, “Much like Fast User Switching, accounts and applications stay active and running in the background. Instead of seeing a different OS X environment, you might see SuSE Linux or Windows or Solaris. The bottom line is: Apple already has the interface technique in place and the technology to make this happen in Expose. What it lacks is the ability to run multiple operating systems side by side. That it can now get from Intel and its virtualization technologies inside of future Pentium and Xeon chips. [Intel-based Macs from Apple] may offer us not just smooth multiple user environments, but multiple OS worlds as well.”

Full article here.
If so, and only Apple Macs will be able to offer Mac OS X along with any other operating system a users chooses, the question we’ve been asking since June only gets louder, “Why buy a Dell (or any other assemblers’ boxes) if Apple Macs can run Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux operating systems and applications at native speeds?” And what happens when Wall Street figures it out?

Note: After Jobs’ WWDC announcement of Intel-based Macs, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller addressed the issue of running Windows on Macs, saying there are no plans to sell or support Windows on an Intel-based Mac. “That doesn’t preclude someone from running it on a Mac. They probably will,” he said. “We won’t do anything to preclude that.” However, Schiller said the company does not plan to let people run Mac OS X on other computer makers’ hardware. “We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac,” he said.

The ability to run Windows and Mac OS X only on Apple Macs could drastically alter the personal computing landscape. Apple doesn’t need to license Mac OS X to other vendors. Other vendors will need to figure out a way to compete with Apple Macs that can run Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux flavors. We don’t see how other vendors will be able to compete with Apple, especially if users can run Windows in a protected Mac OS X environment with no performance hit.

This idea doesn’t kill Microsoft right away (eventually it will, though, as users compare Mac OS X to Windows and end up using Windows less and less until they realize that they don’t need Windows at all), but Dell, HP, Gateway, Acer, etc. wouldn’t fare every well pretty much immediately. You think Mac market share is growing rapidly now? Just wait. This could quickly become a case of “license Mac OS X or die” for the Dells of the world. But, what if Steve Jobs doesn’t feel like licensing Mac OS X? Checkmate. Is it too early to suggest that Michael Dell shut down the company and give the money back to shareholders?

And, no, developers will not stop writing Mac OS X applications if Apple’s Intel-based Macs can also run Windows at native speeds. As Jason Snell wrote for Macworld back in June, “Mac users are Mac users because they want to run software in the Mac interface. The large software companies that publish programs on the Mac understand that, and so do the small Mac developers who are making the coolest OS X apps around. I’d tell you that the middle-range developers with a flagging commitment to the Mac would be the ones most worth worrying about, but honestly, the Mac OS X transition already shook most of them out of the Mac market.”

Related articles:
Apple patent application designed to prevent Mac OS X from running on non-Apple hardware – November 09, 2005
How Apple can win the OS war – October 19, 2005
Intel’s built-in virtualization tech could be one way to run Windows on Intel-based Apple Macs
Intel-based Macs running both Mac OS X and Windows will be good for Apple – June 10, 2005
Why buy a Dell when Apple ‘Macintel’ computers will run both Mac OS X and Windows? – June 08, 2005
Will developers stop writing Mac applications if Apple ‘Macintel’ computers can run Windows? – June 08, 2005
Windows users who try Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger might not want to go back – June 07, 2005
Microsoft: The safest way to run Windows is on your Mac – October 08, 2004


  1. What happens when you use fast OS switching and come up with a BSOD? If Windows has been running in the background for an unknown time, what are the chances it’s still up when you want it?

    I’m just talkin’ here. This could be really cool.

  2. If this can work with OSX, it can work with windows.
    So MDN your statement:
    “”Why buy a Dell (or any other assemblers’ boxes) if Apple Macs can run Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux operating systems and applications at native speeds?””

    could also read:

    “Why buy a Mac if Windows PCs can run Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems and applications at native speeds?”

  3. have you not read about the patents Apple has gotten nor the quotes given about protecting OS X from running on non-Apple hardware (with the exception of the current X86 version out there now)

    When I go home this Christmas I’m installing OSX on my old Pentium 4!

  4. What a bad idea. I can just see it now: Fast whizzy interface switching effect. Solid secure OS X 10.4 running on base window 1, vulnerable hacker’s dream windows 2K, XP, or Vista running in fastswitch mode on cube side 2. Presto..changeo. Only since the OS is always loaded, it’s always exposed to the internet. Whoopee… Score! Now hacker boys and girls all over the net get to attack OS X machines to their heart’s delight. Load a worm on the windows partition, then hack away.

    Windows of any version is so bad it should only be used to invoke those legacy apps that cannot be run in os X and should be closed down immediately thereafter, or isn’t computer security more important to most users than whizzy effects?

  5. “Really” hasn’t been catching up on his reading about the Intel version of OS X. It is supposed to be bound to Apple hardware, meaning that you won’t be able to run it on vanilla PCs by Dell or some other crappy manufacturer. Windoze doesn’t have that same hardware tie-in. So, an Intel Mac can run Mac OS, Windows, Linux, etc. The Dell box can’t run Mac OS.

    Just ’cause you asked…

  6. Oh come on!
    “Apple already has the interface technique in place” congratulations! apple can rotate a cube with 2 textures, must be a very hard thing to do in openGL.
    It would be very nice though to run different OSes for what they’re best at. OS X for most stuff and windows for games (after unplugging the computer from the net that is).

  7. CFO already said they won’t condone nor impede Windows use

    They won’t condone Windows use?? They didn’t say that!

    Schiller said they wouldn’t impede or SUPPORT it, meaning, you can’t phone Apple for Windows problems ( tee hee)

  8. I’m forced to use Windows at work as a real estate agent.Being able to use windows on a Mac would be great.Current Windows people will be able to see just how much better OSX is first hand.
    Imagine how frustrating it will be when switching from OSX to Windows running in the background for the last couple of hours.The cube spins around and you have a couple hundred pop ups waiting for you.

  9. This type of functionality is more likely to show up in Leopard, which is due in about 1 year. I expect Apple to migrate their OS and applications as they typically do, adding functionality as they can.

    I believe that the rest of Tiger will bug-fixes, and making the intel/ppc code base as stable as possible.

    The types of technologies that the are article talks about are more of a 10.X release than a 10.X.X release if they are incorporated at all.

  10. For a historical note, how many remember “Switcher” that preceded multifinder and allowed switching from, say, MacWrite to MacPaint without quitting MacWrite? It was written by Andy Herzfeld and had the same visual effects as user switching?

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.