A better Windows than Windows?

A better Windows than Windows?

Summary: Years ago, IBM tried to sell OS/2 with the tagline "a better Windows than Windows." They failed, because it simply wasn't true. But Apple has the opportunity to succeed where IBM failed. Just look past Boot Camp.


Many years ago, IBM tried to sell OS/2 with the tagline "a better Windows than Windows." They failed, because that ambitious claim simply wasn't true. But Apple has the opportunity to succeed where IBM failed. The secret? Look past Boot Camp. 

I'm not all that excited by Boot Camp. As I wrote earlier this week, dual-booting is a crude solution to compatibility problems. (More thoughts on the subject here.) What I want to see instead is virtualization. Give me good software that can run Windows programs alongside native Mac applications, and you've just blown away my biggest objection to adoption of the Mac platform.

It looks like it might happen sooner rather than later. Yesterday, Parallels announced the availability of a free beta version of its new virtualization software for OS X (the final product will cost $50). If it lives up to its claims, it will allow Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP, several flavors of Linux, and even OS/2 Warp in a virtual machine without dual-booting.

And a popular Mac rumors site says that VMWare is porting its software to Mac OS X and is already successfully running Windows XP and Linux in its labs.

For years, I've heard Mac owners pooh-pooh the idea of virtualization software. The overwhelming complaint: It's slower than molasses in January.  It's painful to use. It's really, really irritating. It's slow, slow, slow.

But what if those complaints were specific to the most popular virtualization software out there, Virtual PC for Mac? Microsoft bought the technology from Connectix back in 2003 and released a Microsoft-branded version of Virtual PC for Windows in 2004. Its most recent Mac update, Virtual PC for Mac Version 7, doesn't run on the latest Mac hardware, and the company's most recent public statement on upgrades simply says, "We are working with Apple to determine the feasibility of developing Virtual PC for Mac for Intel-based Macs."

I've evaluated Virtual PC for Windows and VMWare Workstation 5.5 extensively. (I've also downloaded the Windows version of Parallels Workstation and Microsoft's free Virtual Server 2005 R2 but haven't had a chance to test either one yet.)  In my experience, there's no contest. Virtual PC for Windows is painfully slow. VMWare is fast, slick, and nearly bulletproof. Based on the company's track record, I would expect an OS X-based VMWare to be state-of-the-art. Any Mac user who was disappointed by Virtual PC for the Mac should set aside those memories and try one of the alternatives.

Last week at this time, owners of Intel-based Macs could choose any OS they wanted, as long as it was OS X. This week, the landscape is dramatically changed. Apple's hardware is still pricey, but it's getting more and more tempting with each passing day.

Topic: Apple

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  • Death blow to Apple?

    Hmmm, so when all the Mac users find out there are millions of application on the Windows side how long before they figure out they don't want or need an over priced platform?

    I think Apple just took aim at their own foot...
    • Yeah, good luck with that

      Given the dominance of Windows in the press, and the shelves of every electronics store out there, do you really think that Apple users are unaware that there are more software titles available for Windows? How stupid do you think we are?

      More does not necessarily mean better. Unless there are vital programs that are massively better on Windows than on OSX, I can't see anyone switching for this reason. If you're already a Mac user, you've got the software you need. Having access to 10 other programs that do the exact same thing is hardly a big selling point.
      tic swayback
    • You obviously have no idea

      Mac users don't use the Mac just because there are maybe 2 or 3
      applications we can't use that are Winblows only. We use it because
      we love OS X, we love the fact that it just works, other software you
      can't get for Windows (such as Final Cut Pro) rocks. The system is
      great without the headaches and higher TCO of a windows system.
      If you want to play games go buy an X-Box or a Playstation.
    • Millions maybe but 99% crapware

      So much software is package to make quick buck and what better enviroment to do that to sell software where once open it can't be returned.

      What do you think will happen when Users get tired of booting into Windows for that one app?
      • Be kind to no-axe

        Remember he's a crapware developer. :-)
        • Sorry no-axe

          I couldn't resist. :-)
    • Billions and Billions of Stars

      Of the "millions" of PC apps, how many do you run? A few
      hundred thousand?

      I admire good hyperbole as much as the next guy, but "death
      blow to Apple!" Well, whatever works for you.

      They don't call them platforms for nothing. OSX will be judged
      on it's ability to host software. By all accounts, it does a better
      job than Windows. Is this inconsequential when seen against the
      mountain of Windows applications? It seems you'd have us
      believe it.

      During the Windows gold rush, the filled cart was put before the
      horse, then the horse was shot. The result has been an
      abundance of choice and technical stagnation. Of all the
      calendar apps available, you still go home with one. Look into
      Esther Dyson's recent writings on the tyranny of choice. See if it
      doesn't make sense.

      Today, another poster mused about Microsoft the law firm, and
      that their victories are legal and not technical. With new and
      direct competition blooming as a direct result of the antitrust
      remedies, I'm inclined to agree.
      Harry Bardal
    • Actually

      Virtualization is the way to go and VMWare is very cool, they just need to add Mac OS. Then you can run Windows as a virtual machine and once it's been infected with virsus, spyware just pull out a fresh copy of your virtual machine and blow the old one away. It'll work great for getting rid of all those crappy Windows applications you try once, before you realize what junk they really are.
    • Another obituary for Apple...

      .... to add to my vast collection. When will Windows partisans figure out that Apple users don't want to use Windows' crappy and derivative interface and cheesy operating system; we use it when we're forced to, but find nothing alluring about it. But of course, No_Ax is so openminded about Apple that I'm sure he'll apologize momentarily.
    • Death Blow to Windows more likely

      How many applications does one person need? There are hundreds of cars on the market but I only need one to get me around. Who actually really CARES that there are millions of apps on Windows? Hardly any of them work correctly anyway. Every single one I have on my OS X machine works nearly flawlessly. THAT my friend is worth more to me than a million apps on ANY platform.
    • Level playing field

      Now that you can run either OS (or both) on the same hardware, I guess it depends on whether people really like Windows or Mac OS X better.

      I'm not sure the "millions of apps" argument means much, if the apps that people need are available on either platform.

      I wonder if it will encourage publishers to port more apps to OS X or vice versa? That might be the deciding factor.
    • Yeah, if you can stand Windows CRASHING all the time...

      I use both platforms. I have MS Office 2004 for Mac and Office
      2003 Pro for XP. Without a doubt the Office for Mac is superior.
      While I might "suffer" from less software choices, I can honestly
      tell you that over the last three years my three Macs have only
      froze less than three times each. My Windows XP SP2 however,
      crashes at least twice a week and three times so bad that Geek
      Squad had to fix it.

      Why the hell would I abondon my "over priced platform" that
      works super to use a pile of crap that crashed constantly, that I
      must update weekly if not more for flaws and fixes, and spend
      almost as much time on upkeep than use? Besides, all this
      WONDERFUL stuff Micosoft is braging about with Vista I got that
      and more with Mac OS Tiger LAST YEAR for about 1/3 of what
      Vista will cost. Duhhhh
  • Emulation versus Virtualization

    The reason VPC was so slow was because it was an emulator--you were running on PPC chips and tricking Windows into thinking they were x86 chips. Since Apple's new machines are x86 chips, you are no longer emulating, hence the massive increases in speed.
    tic swayback
    • So why is VPC for Windows so slow?

      I would buy that argument except for the fact that VPC for Windows is so sluggish. It's running on an x86, so the emulation excuse doesn't apply.
      Ed Bott
      • slow?

        Actually, when run on decent hardware, with a bit of extra memory, it runs great. I have a 3.06 ghz laptop, (Dell 5150), with 1.5 gigs of memory, and I normally run an XP pro window alongside of a Fedora core 4 window, and it runs great!

        I may take a look at vmware, if it's really faster, but I am more that satisfied with the speed I get.
        Troll Hunter
      • Because it's from Microsoft?

        And Microsoft would find a way to mangle a 1 car parade.

        Remember... an MS Vacuum Cleaner would be the only thing from MS that didn't suck :-)

      • Updated for x86 Macs ... ?

        Has it even been updated for the new Intel Macs yet? It would certainly be sluggish if it's doing *two* levels of emulation rather than zero.
  • OS2 WAS better

    It just wasn't as popular, and Big Blue was not exactly the underdog that people like to root for.
    Roger Ramjet
    • It wasn't better at running Windows apps

      Roger, the OS/2 claim of "a better Windows than Windows" was based on its ability to run native Windows applications within OS/2. As it turned out, that subsystem didn't work particularly well. OS/2 may have been a better OS (we could debate that forever), but its Windows compatibility was terrible. It ran only 16-bit apps, and only in standard (aka Windows 3.0) mode. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS/2.) Making that extravagant claim was a marketing blunder.
      Ed Bott
      • Actually it generally was better

        The claim "a better windows than windows" actually referred to Windows 3.1, not Windows 95+. The subsystem actually worked quite well and was faster and more stable than a native windows 3.1. So the claim was, in fact, true.

        OS/2 was also capable of running many win32s (the 32-bit windows api for windows 3.1) programs.