Since Apple announced it was moving its Macintosh computers to Intel processors last summer, two different camps became very interested and active. First was the one wanting to have the option of running Windows on their Macintosh. Second was the group who was intent on getting Mac OS X running on their PC.
Shortly after the first Intel Macs became available, several options for running Windows on a Mac became available. First was XOM (Windows XP on Macintosh), then result of a contest, then came Apple’s own Boot Camp dual-boot solution, followed by the Parallels’ Desktop virtualization technology, which lets you run Windows or Linux in a window just like your other OS X apps (seen here).
The group wishing to run Mac OS on their PCs hasn’t had the same good fortune. A hacked version of the operating system surfaced on the internet shortly after the first developer test machines became available last summer, but Apple has been largely successful at keeping their pride and joy out of the hands of pirates. And even though Apple has consistently stated it has no intentions of offering OS X for generic PCs, a lot of people still think Apple would be better off selling their software to anyone who wants it.
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about this announcement floating around the Internet. The biggest by far is that you will soon be able to install Mac OS X on your Dell or HP/Compaq PC. This is simply not going to happen. I repeat: You will not be able to run Mac OS on commodity PC hardware. Why? Apple has always been, and is still, primarily a maker and seller of computer hardware. The only reason it develops great software is that it happens to be the best way for it to sell hardware. If Mac OS X could run on any and every cheap PC, sales of Macintosh computers would disappear, as would Apple itself.
Second, one of the things that makes a Macintosh a Macintosh is the tight coupling of hardware and software. Driver issues are practically non-existent on Macs, as 99% of devices “just work” out of the box. If Apple all of a sudden had to move from simply supporting hardware it designed to supporting every possible device from China and Taiwan, it would be a disaster. In fact, it would be a lot like Windows.
While laying in bed Saturday morning, I thought of a way Apple could have it both ways. While they’ll never let you install OS X on your PC, they could sell you what I call the vMac (virtual Mac). Just like the Parallels Desktop lets me run a PC in a sandboxed environment on my iMac, the vMac would create a virtual Macintosh running within Windows. Apple would retain as tight of control over the virtual Macintosh hardware as it does over its real hardware, eliminating the driver issues mentioned above. That means Apple could deliver a similar experience to PC users regardless of the hardware they’re running on (at the price of performance, no doubt).
Apple could sell the vMac software outright to PC users along with a copy of OS X, or it could offer it as a free time limited demo to give them a taste of what they could be using instead if they had a Mac.
I’m sure there are a few holes in my idea, but I can’t think of any glaring holes. What do you think?