With the move to Apple silicon, how will Macs run Windows apps?

With Apple moving the Mac from Intel processors to its own Apple-designed ARM-based architecture over the next few years, what might that mean for Boot Camp or running Windows on a Mac in general? How will Macs run Windows apps?

How will Macs run Windows apps? The transition to Apple silicon in the Mac will create a common architecture across all Apple products, making it far easier for developers to write and optimize software for the entire Apple ecosystem.
The transition to Apple silicon in the Mac will create a common architecture across all Apple products, making it far easier for developers to write and optimize software for the entire Apple ecosystem.

Ross Rubin for ZDNet:

All in all, it seems unlikely that Apple will have first-party support for running Windows on what could be more appliance-like ARM-based Macs.

But there will still be value in running Windows apps on Macs.

The most likely outcome, then, is that a third party will ship an Apple-sanctioned emulator that will do a “good enough” job for niche tasks. Another alternative might be the growing host of options to access PCs in the cloud with low latency. Or perhaps some enterprising company will put a PC on some flash drive-like USB-C device that can commandeer a future Mac’s keyboard and display, a more compact and powerful version of the Intel Compute Stick.

MacDailyNews Take: The only people who use Windows are those stuck with legacy apps, the ignorant, and the stupid. Nobody who knows about Apple’s Macintosh chooses to run Windows, they do it because they’re stuck.

97% of enterprise Mac users say they’re more productive after upgrading from Windows.

Some “solution” will materialize for the poor souls who are stuck having to run some Windows-only app, but for the rest of us who are already or, like us, have always been free of the Borg:

Apple has been, for years, building strength in the enterprise via BYOD and the rise of mobile which Apple ushered in with iPhone and iPad. “Compatibility with Windows” is not nearly as important today as it was even a few years ago… We expect to see Apple begin the ARM-based Mac transition with products like the MacBook and work their way up from there as the apps are brought over to ARM via Xcode and as the rest of the world continues to throw off the Microsoft Windows shackles into which they stupidly climbed so many years ago, lured, wrongly, solely by Windows PC sticker prices.MacDailyNews, June 19, 2019

Buckle up, it’s going to be a wild – and much faster/more efficient – ride! Bring on the new Apple-designed, ARM-based Macs! — MacDailyNews, June 26, 2019


  1. NOTE:

    When Apple moved to Intel, 12% of users were running Windows via boot camp or emulation.

    Today only 2% of Mac users are running virtual Windows OS environments.

    A BIG question in the move away from Intel was: Is it more important to support Windows or iOS/iPad OS apps?

    Clearly, cloud computing (quickbooks, Google Docs, etc…), made it much easier to depart from Intel.

    1. @Bobby Where did you get these #s? Intuitively I believe there is a shift to cloud based apps, but even with this shift not all apps are in the cloud or on a Mac yet.

      @MDN Your retro take is unappreciated and not helpful. I’ve been working off of a MacPro exclusively for the last 15 years, but can’t escape Windows-only apps in the business world. It must be nice for you and others who don’t deal with this problem, but a shift to an ARM-based only future on Macs gives me a serious concern. I run several financial planning services apps that only run on Windows and are not yet in the cloud. These are best of class apps I cannot do without.

      I’m not saying this is the end of the world, but I do have serious reservations and I’m cautiously watching this development. I would HATE to have to own a commodity SurfacePro just b/c apps run like dogs in emulation on an ARM based processor.

      1. Yes, I hope we do not return to the days of Windows EMULATION on Mac…OrangePC anyone? That was rather painful.

        That said, MS is getting Windows to run on some variation of ARM chips so maybe there will be a viable virtualization path in the near future and this move might push MS to accelerate that path.

      2. RE: The 1st paragraph => 100% Agree

        RE: The 2nd paragraph => Apple did say they have more Intel-based Macs in the pipeline and macOS will continue to support Intel-based Mac for years to come. So instead of buying a Surface or another Windows PC, you could just upgrade to a newer-model Intel Mac and use it until it stops receiving macOS updates. By that time the situation with the ARM Macs should be more clear.

        1. @S. Multi Yes, I’m aware of what they said, but what does that mean “years to come”? The lack of definition is what gives me caution and concern. I also don’t have control over what Macs they roll ARM-only processors out to. They were not clear on their product line-up plans (as is usual for Apple). How long MacOS will support the Intel chipset is unclear too? There are plenty of reasons for caution and concern.

      3. Concur about MDN’s continuously vitriolic rhetoric. It’s comical that news scrapers think they‘re masters of the enterprise computing that runs the world and underpins the data and services they have the good fortune of interacting with on Apple devices. As you said, not helpful. MDN is either completely unknowledgeable or writing purposely snarky, hyperbolic trash.

  2. One thing that has been overlooked is that some people need to run an older version of MacOS, that won’t be possible either with a proper x86 emulation/virtualisation platform.

    Personally I also maintain a Windows VM for the odd times when literally, nothing else will do!

  3. I ran Windows on Parallells for several years because I had to. Haven’t booted up Windows for 2 years now. Good riddance.

    The funny thing was, Windows ran better on Macs than on any PC hardware.

    1. When PC manufacturers bundle Windows with their hardware, they include a lot of other bloatware, in order to lower their costs with subsidies from the makers of said bloatware.

      Apple does not bundle Windows with their hardware, meaning you have to provide your own copy.

      Windows out of the box, is simply that and nothing more, with none of the bloatware included.

      This is why Apple machines are generally better Windows boxes than most Windows boxes.

      Of course, you could always supply your own copy of Windows for your PC, but I don’t see many Windows users choosing to increase their cost by doing so!

  4. MDN: “The only people who use Windows are those stuck with legacy apps, the ignorant, and the stupid.”

    Thanks for the asinine input.

    There are people who must use Windows only software — and NOT just legacy software.

    Just as one example look at Analytical Graphics’ Systems Tool Kit. It’s a huge, complex aerospace simulation tool — truly the best in its class. (It better be as it’s over $150,000 for the full suite and all the bells and whistles with an annual maintenance fee of over $15,000.) If you want to do very accurate modeling and simulation of aerospace systems (from missiles to aircraft to drones to satellites and everything associated with them from communications to sensors) you’d be foolish to be running anything less capable. AGI’s STK is absolutely NOT “legacy software”, it’s updated more regularly than Adobe does with its Creative Suite applications. However, it almost certainly will be x86 based only for the far, far foreseeable future.

    Another piece of critical software that many of us use that is not, and likely never will be, available natively on ARM Macs is MODTRAN and HITRAN. If you’re going to do atmospheric modeling on the very fine grain (getting down to what happens in the the spectra itself) then there really is no other choice. Everything else is less accurate and less productive.

    I could go on, but I’m sure even MDN gets the point.

    Windows is here to stay. Windows applications are here to stay. Many of us who love our Macs (and use them constantly) absolutely must use Windows applications. To say otherwise is, at best, just ignoring reality.

    1. Thanks for your comments. MDN seems to becoming more radical and condescending in its comments pertaining to Windows users than ever before. What has happened to MDN?

    2. what happen when x86 and windows become so slow and outdated that it like using a wold processor. windows and intel may not advance the way they hope too, and the software you are talking about is not for the average user and that software sure have options just in case something happen to/with the windows platform

  5. long story short… its over. eventually app store will be the only way to install shitty mac apps on your mac. the garden wall will be complete. they are removing scripting languages in a future release. most devs will move back to pure *nix and windows unless they are making widgets for idevices.

    with most software packages going subscription they will not want to have to give apple 30% for that tiny 5-10 percent of their market.

    1. Geek boy it is over goodbye, don’t let the door hit you.

      The switch to Apple Silicon is a huge opportunity for those that can take advantage of it. Finance wise and tech wise.

      Why are so many people in the tech area afraid of moving forward very similar to the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

  6. Sorry MDN, but yes, a lot of us need to run Windows in some form. I DO remember Orange PC, and I do not look forward to a return to those days. Hoping ARM is the general future and it won’t he a huge concern, but it’s concerning nonetheless.

    1. VirtualBox is virtualization software like Parallels and Fusion. It enables running one x86 operating system on a computer running another x86 OS. It is not emulation software that allows running x86 code on a non-x86 processor. That is what Rosetta and Rosetta 2 do, but that is something else entirely.

  7. I have been a Mac user since the very first. Yes I am that old. But, to my dismay, I still have Windows apps that I have to run. Mostly hardware control software that there is no Mac equivalent. There better be a path to excellent Windows emulation that is at least a fast as Parallels. Other wise I will be running old hardware for a long time.

  8. The lack of straightforward access to Windows apps is probably the biggest risk to Apple during this transition. I wonder whether the ARM version of Windows, with its binary translation for win32 apps will resurface in a reincarnated Boot Camp.

    Saying that, memories at MDN fade fast:

    8 August, 2007:

    Only Apple’s OS-unlimited Macs can run virtually all the world’s software. In other words, Apple Macs run the world’s largest software library. Period.

    12 March, 2009:

    PC box assemblers’ OS-limited machines cannot offer Mac OS X, iLife and all of the rest of Apple’s often-best-in-class applications. A chrome-plated turd is still a turd. Only Apple Macs are OS-unlimited and capable of running all of the world’s software.

    19 May, 2007:

    The information we are seeing allows us to confidently state that… the ability to run their Windows “insecurty blanket” on Macs is causing people to buy Macs.

    The insecurity blanket will likely go when Apple Silicon arrives.

  9. Try being an engineer on a Mac. No mainstream Schematic or Circuit board tools run on a mac. There are some that do — Eagle and KiCad are two examples. I’ve used both to some degree or other. Eagle is great for hobbyist stuff, and is getting better, but none of the big hitters run on a Mac.

    I own a copy of Altium Designer, Windows only. Other bit ones like Cadence are Windows or some Linux versions, and things like Orcad or windows only I think.

    Also, there are FPGA tools. These run on Windows, or *nix, but none run natively on mac that I’m aware of.

    I did a lot of compiling on my mac using Parallels, but then I finally went and bought a “box” to run Linux on it.. and, it was many times faster. A 20 minute build went to < 5minutes. That’s a huge improvement — 20 minutes is a long time.

    So, I love my macs, but also like having the option to run the other software on them, or, bootcamp into windows to run Altium or the dev tools, which run unacceptablly slow on my mac.

    Now, I’d be forced to have 2 machines, so that decreases the value I get from a mac significantly.

  10. This move away from Intel forces me to have two machines. I was willing to pay the high price for my Mac because Macs could be three machines – a Mac, Windows and Linux machine. This move by Apple reduces the value I receive from a Mac significantly.

  11. I stopped upgrading when I went to Mojave as it was just too damn expensive to upgrade many of my 32Bit apps.

    Then there were the games that would’ve forced me into the arms of Steam (yuck). So now I’m upgrading my late 2015 5K iMac by installing a 4TB OWC Pro 6G which will give it a huge speed boost and extend the Mac’s life for years to come.

    Frankly, I’ve diverged from Apple’s master plan and this has been a long time coming. I’m prepared to spend some decent money to avoid the Catalina closed door policy and go my own way by avoiding emulation as much as I can. It also means I won’t be spending anymore money on Macs that are made in China and that makes me feel good.

    As for my 6s Plus I can’t see any reason to dump a perfectly good phone as well. So yes I’m still an Apple user but I’m just not going to spend any more money on overly priced products that don’t give the equivalent value for money.

Reader Feedback

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