Can virtualization double Apple's market share?

Can virtualization double Apple's market share?

Summary: If these requirements are ever met, you'll be able to run a thin layer of software called a Hypervisor from companies like XEN and be able to install multiple operating systems such as Mac OS X for Intel, Windows, Linux, or BSD directly on to the raw hardware.

TOPICS: Virtualization

There has been a lot of grumbling in the Apple fan base that questions the decision to migrate to the Intel platform, but could Steve Jobs have a secret weapon up his sleeves to double Apple's market share in the desktop computing market?  There may very well be and it's Apple's exclusive license to run on the x86 platform.

The initial migration to the Intel platform is a bumpy road and it has been costly in terms of sluggish sales due to the anticipation of the newer Intel-based Macs.  Many Apple fans point out that the move to Intel based CPUs makes it vulnerable to direct comparisons of price versus performance and therefore loses the mystique of the PowerPC RISC processors.  To make matter worse, an evaluation of Apple's Rosetta PowerPC emulation engine by AnandTech seems to indicate a severe performance penalty when running native PowerPC applications.  Even though the new Intel Core Duos are delivering superior performance for Intel compiled applications as promised, some PowerPC applications often can't even run at 1/3 the speed of a G5.  If you're wondering why Steve Jobs would put the Macintosh through such a torturous migration, the answer might be virtualization.

When I speak of virtualization, I don't mean the kind of virtualization that makes Rosetta so slow because it has to do costly PowerPC to Intel x86 CPU emulation.  I'm speaking of the type of virtualization that's never been available to Apple before but is now because of the new Intel CPUs.  The new form of emulation is a thin translation layer that minimizes resource overhead and there are many possibilities.

Both VMWare and Microsoft are promising Intel optimized virtualization software that will run any version of Windows, Linux, or BSD with minimal overhead.  The down side to this approach is that a licensed copy of Windows is still needed and things like I/O and video graphics are still emulated which severely impact performance and eliminates the possibility of running games.  Then there's the option of running Wine or CrossOver with limited application support but without the need for a licensed copy of windows.  But ultimately, perhaps the final goal of Apple is to support true hardware partitioning through paravirtualization.

Of course, there are still many barriers to paravirtualization for the new Intel Mac.  Intel would have to release new Core Duo CPUs that have VT support which is likely in the near future.  Apple would have to implement a BIOS compatibility layer for EFI to support bare-metal installation of Windows that only support the conventional BIOS although this is currently just speculation.  If these requirements are ever met, you'll be able to run a thin layer of software called a Hypervisor from companies like XEN and be able to install multiple operating systems such as Mac OS X for Intel, Windows, Linux, or BSD directly on to the raw hardware.  This of course assumes you have enough hard drive and RAM to support multiple operating systems.

The implication of all this is that Apple will be the only companies licensed to run Mac OS X, Windows, and other common x86 operating systems in the world since no one else is licensed to run Mac OS X.  This would open the possibility of using Macs for PC gaming or any other Windows application that traditionally wouldn't run at all or didn't run well on PowerPC Macintosh PC emulators.  All the borderline cases where people aren't sure about a Macintosh because of their requirements for Windows applications and games will all of sudden be more willing to accept the Mac.  If Steve Jobs plays his cards right and delivers true paravirtualization, Apple may indeed double its market share.

Topic: Virtualization

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Only Double it?

    Keep in mind just exactly how much of a Marketshare Apple has. Granted, Apple's marketshare has grown in recent times, and it will probably grow slightly more as the Intel Macs become mainstream.
    I would say be the end of this year, Apple may be looking at 10 to 15% of the Desktop Market.
    • Sales or installed base?

      Not a good year for sales with Vista publicity submerging Apple's message.

      And the new Macs will cost as much as the old Macs, so the price premium for Apple's style will continue.
      Consider all the ads for the -$600 machines available. The public's interest appears to be in low cost, rather than features or style.

      And the number of people interested in virtualization? The people reading this blog probably know most of that market by name.
      Anton Philidor
      • Will this trend continue though...

        Believe it or not, the iPod has had a halo effect on Mac Sales. Though they are sluggish at the moment, I still predict they will rise here very shortly.

        Another thing is.. that Ads are usually targeted to try and draw attention. That doesn't mean that they will get it. Apple has had success pushing the iPod, but you still haven't seen that much advertising on the Intel Mac. Shortly this may change though.
        • Could make for an interesting ad campaign

          Think of all the attention Apple's "Switchers" commercials got (if
          not actual results). What if their next campaign generates the
          same level of interest, but they've taken away the barriers that
          prevent many from switching? Should be interesting to see, and
          as someone else pointed out, doubling your marketshare isn't all
          that tough when you're starting at 4-5%. Wouldn't make a huge
          dent for Microsoft, but would be huge for Apple (and maybe
          wouldn't even be noticed by MS, as they'd be selling these
          people copies of Windows to run under virtualization, and
          possibly selling them VirtualPC to run it with--everybody wins).
          tic swayback
          • You mean like these commericals...


            yea... no body gets hosed like the Mac Gamer.

            I just say they show Ellen Feiss all grown up and that would probably get the Linux Geeks atleast and a few Windows guys in there.
          • What difference does virtualization make?

            People who want a Mac will buy one. People who want an inexpensive computer or the best possible pc games play will buy what they're accustomed to buying.

            Virtualization will appear to the technologically oriented, which are only a portion of the Mac market, and a smaller proportion of the pc market.

            No big advantage, I believe.
            Anton Philidor
          • Depends on how it's implemented

            A few years ago, you might have said that mp3 players would
            "appeal to the technologically oriented", but Apple's
            implementation seems to have simplified the idea of ripping/
            downloading enough to appeal to the masses.

            Right now, I'd be willing to bet there are people who want a Mac,
            but won't buy one because it would mean re-buying all of the
            expensive Windows software they've invested in (whether
            productivity programs or games). What about a small non-tech
            savvy business that doesn't want the Windows maintenance
            overhead, but has one piece of Windows only customized
            software that they rely upon? Don't you think there might be
            some appeal for them to switch over to OSX, and be able to hop
            into Windows for that one program?

            The reasons one often hears on boards like this for not
            switching are usually those listed above--I don't want to re-buy
            all my software, I like to play games, or there's one piece of
            mission critical software I use that's Windows-only.
            Virtualization gets rid of all of those issues.
            tic swayback
        • Will Apple join the -$600 market...

          ... that pc makers are emphasizing? I don't think they will, not seriously.

          The decision that Apple will not reduce their prices despite the switch to Intel shows the company's interest in expanding market share.
          Anton Philidor
          • What about high-end PC's?

            Yes, Apple's not going to be competing with Walmart or bottom of
            the barrel Dells. No question.

            But what about the portion of the market that buys Vaios or
            Alienware PC's? Could Apple make inroads there? Remember that
            even if this is a fairly small percentage of the overall market, those
            gains would be huge compared to Apple's current marketshare.
            tic swayback
          • No Competition

            Remember the fastest chip is AMD's and the cost of AMD's is less: power vs. price. Vaios are not considered like a gamers machine if speaking high end machines. Alienware are way overpriced but so dang cool. A serious high end machine is going to be a machine running an AMD 64 because people do research to find the best of the best. apple is not in the league. It will gain a small market to its own clientele that like Mac?s. But a quick look down the line and the big bad pc's will most likely catch the buyers attention.
          • No more than today, I suspect

            I agree, Anton, I don't think so seriously either. They will, in my
            estimation keep a 'value' price for certain entry points in their line,
            but traditionally, Apple's market is not the 'bottom feeders'. And
            that entry point will almost for certain be higher than the generic
            branded whiteboxes out there. Of course Apple wants to increase
            it's market share somewhat, but not at the expense of becoming
            known as just another commodity supplier. There is already too
            much of that out there.
      • nada nothing zero

        most people don't care for virtualization or even know what it is. only us techies would ever have a curiosity even knowing how slow virtualization is. it's a playtoy not a sales point.
    • RE: Only Double it?

      So you think OSX will move back into the number 2 spot behind MS?
    • Message has been deleted.

      • Why are you such a homophobe?

        One of my psychology profs in college said that people that constantly bring up the topic of homosexuality when it has nothing to do with the topic being talked about are afraid that they may be a homosexual themselves. If that is the case with you, don't worry, being gay does not make you a bad person, but IMHO, being a homophobe does!

        Oh, do you have real data about Apple's market share that would be useful to this conversation?
    • Steve Jobs is a Slow Thinker.

      I think Steve Jobs is a SLOW THINKER... it took him about 20 years to finally realize what many people have thought of for years...

      I have never bought an Apple, although I have always read that their operating system is better than Windows. But I wouldn't buy a Mac if it wouldn't run Windows, because there are too many programs that won't run on a Mac. But I would buy a Mac, if I could run Windows on it too...

      In other words, we all want to run the best software, don't we? But we don't buy a computer if it doesn't run Windows. (...fact of life.)

      I think what is going to happen is that the Mac will finally become what they should have become many years ago: the high end, that runs Windows programs as well as any other computer. Apple will buy and sell Windows, and Microsoft might become their great friend.

      Whoever wants the best computers to run the best programs will buy an Apple, including me for the first time.

      Apple could more than double its measley market (which is also the reason why many people don't buy a Mac...). They could theoretically sell to 100% of the market with Microsoft's blessing, because they would also be selling Microsoft Windows on Apple computers.

  • Big deal

    I could run Windoze, DOS, Linux, MacOS and AmigaOS on my Amiga back in the mid 90's (all at the same time - either through hardware or software). It was impressive, but not altogether useful. What people WANT is to be able to run the application they want on the OS they want. Switching back and forth gets a bit tiring.

    Xen and VMWareESX-type virtualization is a bit much for a desktop PC. Do you really need to run both at the same time? SUPPOSEDLY you could be able to access video resources without emulation when switching, but is that true? On a server box, the graphics are usually low-end, so you wouldn't care about graphics performance. On a desktop, can the virtualization software handle a single video device to get full performance for all VMs? I doubt it. I suspect that you need to attach the card to a single instance - and you would need 2 cards to properly do this (with the attendant switching issues).
    Roger Ramjet
    • I knew I was having trouble grasping something..

      Much like many Linux Users, they would rather run a dual boot scenerio verses a Virtual machine because of the hit to the resources. Although I have seen XP run in VMWare rather impressively on an AMD Athlon system, but I still don't see this as something that will really extend Apple's marketshare all that much.
    • I agree.

      Although most people just want to run the applications they want. And could care less what operating system is running.

      I doubt it will increase Apple's market share much at all.
    • I do this now

      I use mepis linux and win4lin with windowsxp.
      because so much propietary software was written for winxp only or xp/apple like adobe. nothing can compare in linux. so to overcome I installed win4lin and xp. work's great I can stay in linux and be on windows. to run the apps I need. I do however agree! what exists in the mac world, that dosn't exist in the winxp world? There is no selling point to virtulization in a apple. to run what is my question?