As usual, Robert Cringely has a thought provoking piece on running Windows apps on Mac OS X.
As you probably know, Apple recently released Bootcamp, which allows Intel Mac users to boot into Windows. A Windows license is required, the operating systems remain separate, and Windows runs at “native” (or better!) speeds. This is a great option for Mac users who want to play a graphics intensive game that is only available for PC.
Similarly, new software from Parallels allows you to run Windows XP inside of a Mac window, like Virtual PC. A Windows license is again required and Windows runs slightly slower than native speeds, but the operating systems are better integrated and you don’t have to reboot. This is a great option for someone with obscure Windows-only software like genealogy or recipe software that they ocassionally want to run.
But Cringely is predicting a third option: native Windows APIs* built into the next version of Mac OS X. Instead of having to run Windows at all, Windows apps would simply run natively in Mac OS X. There is an open source project called Wine and a Mac-specific version called Darwine that are building a free equilvalent of the Windows APIs. But these projects must reverse engineer the Windows APIs since they don’t have access, and they’re subject to the whims of Microsoft. Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t have to reverse engineer a Windows API since it gained access to it through its 1997 cross-licensing deal.
This means that if Cringely is right, the next version of Mac OS X could give Mac users the option to run any Windows program, in addition to their beautiful Mac apps, without paying Microsoft a penny for Windows.
* The Windows APIs are roughly the Windows equivalent of Mac OS X’s Cocoa and Carbon. It provides the common foundation to run the programs.