When Apple announced the Big Switch, some geeks reveled in thought of running several different operating systems natively on a single machine. Shorty after the first Intel Mac was released, efforts to get Windows booting on the Core Duo iMac were underway. Not long afterwards, we had Apple’s own Boot Camp for booting into Windows. At the same time, developers were hard at work on developing virtualization software for the new Apple architecture.
Today—about five months after the first Macintel appeared—the first virtualization software package for Intel Macs has been released. Parallels Desktop for Mac allows Windows, Linux, and just about anything else capable of running on x86 hardware to run inside a virtual machine on a Mac. Unlike Virtual PC, which emulated an x86 processor on Power PC Macs, Parallels Desktop merely provides a virtual operating environment for the other OSes.
Parallels Desktop officially supports any flavor of Windows from 3.1 to Windows Server 2003 (and we hope to test Vista out shortly), all Linux distros, FreeBSD, OS/2, Solaris, and MS-DOS. We’re also hoping to test whether Zeta OS runs on it as well. Similar to Virtual PC, Parallels Desktop offers the ability to share files and folders between Mac OS X and the virtualized operating systems.
Parallels has beaten the big two emulation players—Microsoft and VMware—to market with the release of Parallels Desktop. Microsoft is still undecided about shipping an Intel-native version of Virtual PC, while VMware is rumored to have a Mac version of its popular software in development. While Microsoft and VMware definitely have the street cred in the virtualization market, being first to market in what should be a lucrative virtualization market on Intel Macs will give Parallels a leg up on the competition.
If you have to or want to run Windows on your Mac, Boot Camp is a great solution. Unfortunately, you also have to say goodbye to Mac OS X in order to run it. A few of us here at Ars have played around with prerelease versions of Parallels Desktop, and we’ve been impressed by what we’ve seen. It provides a simpler alternative that may prove attractive to those put off by Boot Camp.
Apple’s transition to Intel is nearly complete. Woodcrest (Intel’s new server CPU) is due out next week and the Core 2 Duo (aka, Conroe—the desktop CPU) will arrive on July 23. It’s reasonable to expect the last two Macs still on the PowerPC architecture to make the transition to Intel shortly after they hit the market. Having a full line-up of Intel Macs ready to run Windows and just about any other OS at native speeds may help Apple see the kind of growth some people are predicting.