The Red Box Myth: Why Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard will not run Windows software natively

“According to proponents of the Red Box Myth, Mac OS X will supposedly soon run Windows software natively, perhaps as soon as Leopard 10.5. They’re wrong; here’s why,” Daniel Eran writes for RoughlyDrafted. “The Red Box Myth is based entirely on speculation circulated by rumor sites; Apple has never mentioned the Red Box as even a possibility, nor have they ever suggested even casual interest in natively running Windows software as part of the core feature set in Mac OS X. Where did the idea come from, why is it repeated so often, and how can it be disproved?”

“The Red Box Myth began nearly ten years ago, when Apple started drawing pictures of colored boxes to convey a simplified view of Mac OS X development. The point of the diagrams was to show how the new OS would be able to run both programs designed for Cocoa/OpenStep, referred to as the ‘Yellow Box’, and Carbon/Classic Mac software, called the ‘Blue Box.’ Other boxes were drawn to represent conceptual API functions of the Core OS, the Java VM, QuickTime media layer, the BSD subsystem, and so on, but none of these were assigned a specific color,” Eran writes. “People with no engineering background suddenly jumped to the conclusion that adding the capability to run new software in Mac OS X would merely require… adding another colored box to the diagram. The most obvious opportunity for a new colored box would be one to run Windows software, and thus began the myth of the Red Box… I think it’s clear that Apple will only offer support for dual boot, leaving third parties to improve upon running Windows within Mac OS X, or emulating the Windows APIs necessary to run some Windows apps.”

Full article here.

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  1. Apple has never mentioned the Red Box as even a possibility, nor have they ever suggested even casual interest in natively running Windows software as part of the core feature set in Mac OS X.

    Apple also doesn’t comment on unannounced features or products.

    We’ll see what’s in Leopard soon enough.

  2. If, and only IF, Apple were able to run Windows apps (those that don’t plug into directX and many other underlying Windows OS underpinnings) without Windows installed it would be the ultimate killer computer. Dell, Gateway and many others might as well shut their doors. Ultimately I see Apple doing this, a feeling, not some insider fact, based on their rights to use the Windows API from several years ago (circa XP SP1). But it’ll be based on older apps, maybe not future Windows Apps as I’m sure MSFT is churning out code on their newest API’s which Apple doesn’t have the right to which will break this ability. Even then though. All that legacy stuff would run.

  3. The article is well-written and comprehensive; detailing the utter absurdity of the notion that Apple would either want to or could create a compatibility layer in OS X that would allow ALL Windows software to run.

    Anybody who thinks that this was ever a possibility has clearly never dealt with the morass of the Windows API sets.

    While there has been limited success at making a simple Windows text editor work under Darwine; the idea that Apple’s developers could pop out a layer that would allow DirectX to work is pure fantasy.

    Putting aside the technical issues, business interests absolutely preclude this notion from ever becoming a reality. Apple would have to spend their entire bankroll to make such a thing happen (and would have to keep spending to make it continue to work through each version of Windows). Why would they do this? It makes no sense.

    If you want Windows, you will have to buy Windows; and then run it under the officially-sanctioned dual-boot scenario provided by Apple or via third-party emulation schemes. Period.

    While I’m sure that we’ll see all sorts of interesting things in Leopard, a Windows compatibility layer won’t be one of them!

  4. I also think that Mac OS won’t natively run Windows apps. This is because as soon as an Apple machine can run Windows apps within OS X there will no longer be a reason to develop software specifically for the Mac platform. Instead everyone will just write software for PCs which would then also include Macs.

    I don’t know about you, but I think Mac developers seem to “get it” more than the Windows developers. There are numerous cool apps for Mac that have a Windows clone that is not nearly as good. I’m not a developer, but I assume the reason behind this is the developer tools that Apple provides as well as the elegance of OS X itself. Both of these are missing in the Windows world.

    If OS X does gain the ability to run Windows apps without dual booting, then I predict a decline in software quality. I hope either Apple won’t ever make that a possibility or that I am wrong about this.

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