Now that Apple’s Intel Macs are “in the wild” how long before the new machines can run Windows?
Apple’s official statement is that the Mac maker won’t do anything to prohibit Windows from running on an Intel Mac. But they already have. For now.
There’s a fine line Apple must walk by putting Intel in a Mac. If Windows applications can run just fine on Mac hardware, why would Adobe make both a Windows and Mac version of Photoshop?
The argument goes something like this: for the price of Windows, Mac users would have access to all things Windows and major developers for both platforms would stop making Mac versions of their software.
How easy is it to run Windows on new Mac hardware with Intel chips inside? First reports are not here yet, but we can count on it to happen and Apple says they’re doing nothing to prevent it. Kinda sorta.
For the Macs using Intel chips inside, Apple chose to use Intel’s Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) rather than the more traditional BIOS on other Intel and PC maker hardware. Windows XP uses that BIOS to start up.
By choosing EFI from Intel, Apple ensured that Windows XP would NOT run (at least, not run without a major hack, which most users won’t bother to try) on new Macs with Intel chips.
EFI is rather new so I had to do some research to find out the why’s, wherefore’s, and benefits. PowerPC-based Macs use Open Firmware to start up.
Again, the new Intel-based Macs use EFI from Intel, and that prohibits Windows XP from starting up on the new Macs.
EFI has a number of nice features for the future. For example, there’s the ability to connect to the internet using the command shell (like terminal) before the operating system is loaded on the Mac.
That feature alone opens the door for many options. But EFI was developed long after Windows XP was launched. That was, what? 1990-something? I forget, it’s been so long ago.
64-bit versions of Windows XP, developed more recently, support EFI. But the new Macs are using 32-bit Intel chips, so we’re back where we started. Apple will let users run Windows on new Macs—assuming they can figure out how.
Sometime this year (or next, or within this decade), Microsoft will launch the next version of Windows, called Vista. Vista supports Intel’s EFI and should, therefore, run on the new Macs with Intel chips inside.
Windows Vista beta testers will need to get with new owners of Intel-based Macs to see how easy (and the steps required) it is to get Windows running on the new machines.
I’m confident it will happen. And soon.
Of course, the possiblity (if not the probability) of running Windows Vista on a new Mac opens up other issues and other potentials.
Another issue is the file format. Windows and Mac OS X’s file formats are not compatible, though the Mac may be able to read Windows disks, it’s not so easy the other way around, which could cause installation issues.
For now, the only Macs with Intel inside are the MacBook Pro and the new iMac, neither of which have multiple drives. A second hard drive could hold Windows Vista, while the primary boot drive would hold Mac OS X for Intel.
So far, we also don’t know if Windows Vista could boot on an external Firewire, as Mac OS X does now.
Regardless, the whole set of technical issues will be moot not long after Windows Vista ships and the rest of the Mac line shows up with Intel inside. Windows Vista on Macs will happen.
Now, that also opens up additional potential. What about Linux? My parents have a Sony Vaio with Windows XP. I recently put my favorite Linux distro, Novell’s SUSE 10, on the second internal drive.
A small application called GRUB loads up when the Sony is turned on.
GRUB lets the user select which OS to run, in this case Windows XP or SUSE 10. It works great.
Will there be something similar for the new Macs? Personally, I think so, hope so.
Back to the other item regarding software. If the Mac can run Windows, why would Adobe create Mac versions of the following: Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Illustrator, InDesign, Fireworks, GoLive, Dreamweaver, et al?
Ostensibly, a Mac user would simply need to buy Windows Vista, then purchase the Windows versions of Adobe’s applications, and have a good time running Mac and Windows.
Of course, Adobe has a few million Mac customers not running Windows on their Macs, so that scenario is not likely to take place this year. Or next. But it could happen.
I know many business users who would buy “more expensive” Mac hardware if it would also run Windows.
The average user does email, browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and now photos and printing and not much more. iLife puts Windows applications to shame. Why run Windows on a Mac?
Jack D. Miller
There are many Windows applications without Mac counterparts. Microsoft probably won’t mind selling Windows to Mac users.
Tera Jean Patricks
One more thing. I found this quote on Macworld which helps other Mac users on Open Firmware: “If you’re someone who cares about Open Firmware—that’s the software that runs on your Mac before the Mac OS actually boots up—don’t fear. Features such as the Open Firmware password remain under EFI; you can also still hold down the T key to put an Intel-based Mac into Target Disk Mode; and you can still old down the Option key to get a list of disks to boot from. Group administrators can even set Intel Macs to boot off of a network volume using NetBoot.”