More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

Summary: iCloud is Apple's first step toward virtualization. Get ready for iDesktop.


It seems that I stirred up a hornet's nest with my "Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die" post on May 25th. First, it netted me a filleting by the Angry Mac Bastards (AMBs) on Episode 113, where they ripped me from blow hole to tail fin. And, then the commenting public took me to task on the article itself (80+ sizzling comments thus far).

Finally, my ZDNet bud, Jason Perlow, returned from his stupid trip to Mexico where he enjoyed searing his flesh, getting drunk and generally leaving me here as so much tasty sharkbait--came back and at least patted me on the head with his awesome, "Apple's OS X and virtualization: A missed opportunity." Somehow, I survived it all with a wink and a nod. I think.

I'm scheduled to be on the Angry Mac Bastards show sometime in the near future to at least plead my case and probably get cussed at a bit more.

All said, I'm still right.

Apple needs virtualization.

As you can read in the commentary and listen on the AMB episode, many people believe, falsely, that Apple is a hardware company. Exclusively. It is not. Apple sells software. They have always sold an operating system. They have always sold software--a lot of software. And, if you don't believe they're a software company, then what the hell are: OS X, iOS, iTunes, QuickTime and lots of other software that it develops and supports?

How do you think you operate that hardware without software? And, while Apple allows other companies to build applications for its OS, it would never allow anyone else to create the base system itself.

Just so we're on the same page here.

Apple makes hardware. Apple makes software. They do both. Like IBM, HP and Sun, they have hardware and an operating system that installs on that hardware. Not so hard to understand. Apple is also strongly involved in open source software. So, there's lots of software at Apple. In fact, one might say that Apple is a software company that sells their own hardware.

But, as Apple will tell you, there's no money to be made in hardware. But, for Apple, selling hardware is less about money and more about control, which is a whole other post that is really not part of my beat. So, as Jason points out in his article, Apple is missing a huge amount of money by not going virtual with their OS.

Software is where the money is. Licensing is worth far more than hardware. That's why it won't matter if the OS goes to the cloud. Virtual machines are consistent collections of base hardware and drivers. Apple can create its own controlled VM hardware specs. It will be like having Apple hardware except virtual.

If you've ever created a virtual machine, you understand what I'm talking about. You don't get to pick from four or five different video card emulators, or a dozen different motherboards or six different disk controllers. It's a very short list, if you get a choice at all.

So, in the sense that VM hardware has such tight controls and limited choices, it's perfect for the Apple model. It's odd that Apple didn't think of it first, really.

For those of you Apple folks who don't think that your beloved OS will soon be known as something clever like, iDesktop, then you're fooling yourself. First Apple introduces iCloud. Next, it will introduce an optional cloud-based desktop. Finally, all Apple hardware will ship with iOS and a built-in iDesktop app that provides that full-blown Apple desktop interface that you've grown to love.

But, that's a couple of years away, so don't jump into your Prius and head to the Apple store to complain just yet. You still have time to get used to the idea and to pay extra for the iDesktop experience.

Topics: Apple, CXO, Cloud, Hardware, Storage, Virtualization


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Why on God's Green Earth would anyone want this?

    Can you imagine OSX loading off a distant server, and then trying to go into Garageband and trying to interact with MIDI hardware and audio cards through an abstraction layer? They might as well hire John Hodgman to play Mac in their next round of commercials.

    Apple will never do this - not in the way described. That whole "Macs just work" thing is too important for them to ever consider this morass.
    • Would be useful in the workplace, though. [nt]

      • Right. Because everyone just loves bogging down

        the network with massive data transfers while enjoying slow screen responses. I know IT control nazis just LOVE the idea of thin clients, but those of use in the real world know it sucks big round river rocks.
      • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

        @fr_gough H.....IT Nazis. You mean the people who enforce your employer's policies on the system that they own and you don't own? You know, the people who sign your paychecks and have a right to decide how their equipment and software that they own and not you is used? Just saying...
      • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

        @cornpie While the concept of the thin client is good in theory, network speeds and server horsepower need to increase at least 10 fold to make the technologies worth using. I've personally done time with a thin client in an office where I shared a pair of 100 mbit connections with 70 people, and unbearable is an understatement as to how much it sucked. Had these systems been run with two or three gigabit ethernet connections between these systems, it would have worked better for all of us. However, that just wasn't the case. But that's what happens when your IT department wants to do all of the computer maintenance from behind the IT dept doors instead of in person.
    • Not to mention

      The headache this would create for their Tech Support which is one of the selling points of Apple (Consumer Reports #1 11 years running).
    • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization


      If, in five years, all the major cities of the USA are wired with doped fiber optics capable of transmitting 16 terabytes of data per second then "OSX loading off a distant server" won't be a problem at all.

      Best wishes :)
    • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization


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  • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

    Funny that you mention Sun as an example. Sun failed miserably trying to transition from high-margin proprietary hardware to software running on generic hardware. As a result Sun no longer exists and Oracle is getting rid of Sun software.
    Apple needs to do the same? I don't think so.
    • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization


      No more Solaris??? Boo hoo.
      • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

        You can get Solaris on an Sun/Oracle server.
        If you want Open Solaris for your laptop then you are out of luck.
      • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization


        You can use Solaris by using Illumos, an opensource version of Solaris which follows the original Solaris as closely as possible. (or something like that. There's a wikipedia page for more info)
    • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization


      Actually, you make a good point by mentioning the Sun / Solaris example.

      But much closer to Steve Jobs and Apple would be the example of NeXT. When NeXT changed to a software only company ( because that's where the money is), the company essentially went bankrupt and needed to be sold off to Apple.
      • Challenge is always economies of scale

        It is tough for IT startups. NEXT couldn't get the economies it required for their hardware. Software is cheaper and easier to produce in smaller quantities, however NEXT couldn't get that going either. <br><br>It is very difficult creating new markets, especially at time of massive abuse by a monopoly player.<br><br>This is the third article pushing Apple virtualization. Nothing Apple has done indicates an interest in this market, nor do they have the technologies. Apple's consumer focus, and the available network technologies in this market (relatively cheap and unreliable) make cloud computing a strange choice.
        Richard Flude
      • It was not bankrupt at all; Jobs was not even thinking of selling it to ...

        @kenosha7777: ... anyone until Amelio (then head of Apple) approached with this idea of bring Jobs back.

        Since Next became software-only, hardware-related losses went away, the staff was optimized and there was never threat of bankruptcy.
      • About the financial situation of NeXT computers after 1996


        As much as I hate to offer an alternate viewpoint to an staunch supporter of Apple products, I have read other viewpoints that counter your historical opinion of the NeXT computer company.

        If you review this online historical synopsis, this author gives the following opinion of NeXT just prior to it being sold to Apple.

        "Despite a spate of relatively successful products, NeXT was not doing well. Ross Perot had sold his share of the company, and Jobs spent very little time there. Many journalists believed that NeXT would quickly run out of cash and close quietly."


        Let's just say that their were different opinions about the financial health of NeXT just prior to it's being acquired by Apple in 1997.
  • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

    I have OSX Snow Leopard in a Virtualbox VM and it runs great apart from sound. It needs full access to the hardware. It'd be ridiculous to have it all running from a server too.
  • Quick. Roll up the chicken wire!

    before they start lobbing more beer bottles and rotten vegetables your way!
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate

      When I start singing, "Rawhide," I'll have to.
  • RE: More Ado about Apple and Virtualization

    Yeesh. While I want virtualization of Mac OS X as much as the next guy look at Apple's bottom line. Hardware exceeds the amount they make on software by orders of magnitude. This is why Apple is a hardware company. Hardware is their bread and butter.