Apple Computer's announcement of Boot Camp, a way to run Microsoft Corp.'s
Windows XP on Apple's Intel-based Macintosh computers, drew attention to
the basic question: why run Windows on a Mac, anyway.
The answer is simple: there are some programs - not many, but certainly a
crucial number - that exist solely on the Windows platform and as such
would require such an option for those Mac users who wish to use those
But there's more than one way to put Windows on an Intel-based Mac, it
turns out, and that other was is through the use of "virtualization
software," such as the still-in-Beta version 2.1 of Parallels Workstation,
a program from Herndon, Virginia-based Parallels, online at
According to a news release, "Virtualization software enables users to run
multiple operating systems, like Linux or Windows, in isolated 'virtual
machines' directly on a Mac OS X desktop, giving users the ability to run
programs that are only available on those operating systems, without
having to give up the usability and functionality of their Mac OS X
I couldn't have said it better. What's more, with a little work and the
installation of the third Beta release of Parallels Workstation, it
happens to be true.
Running Windows side-by-side with the Mac OS, instead of the either/or
method of Boot Camp - where you start an Intel-based Mac with either
Windows or the Mac OS - has some obvious advantages. Copying or cutting
and pasting between Windows and Mac applications is perhaps the greatest
one. Users of specialized software such as BibleWorks, a Bible research
program that's only available in Windows, can do their writing on a Mac,
their research in a "virtual" machine, and accomplish more with less
Other Windows-only applications, such as VersaCheck, with which you can
create and print personal or business checks, can run in the virtual
machine while you run accounting software on the Mac, for example. The
list of possibilities is long, if not endless.
In operation, Parallels Workstation was easy to install, and easy to add
Microsoft Windows to. The firm claims to support versions of Windows going
back to 3.1, as well as several flavors of the Linux operating system and
some other Intel-based systems, including IBM's ill-starred OS/2. I chose
Windows XP, and it installed and ran quite nicely.
My only, initial, hiccup, was an inability of the Windows "PC" to
recognize my Mac mini's wireless antenna and thus connect to the
Internet. A later Beta release fixed that, sort of: I can open up a Web
browser in Windows and surf to my heart's content; the little wireless
icon normally seen in Windows doesn't appear however.
That's small potatoes, however, compared with the overall performance of
Windows under Parallels Workstation. It operated just fine, and might have
been even faster if the Intel Core Duo processor on the Mac mini
had Intel's virtualization technology, or "vt," as Intel calls it,
turned on. Apple has purposely disabled that function, probably to
differentiate the Mac mini from the Intel-based iMac and MacBook
Pro, which have the feature available. My sense - and I could be wrong -
is that unless one uses highly intensive Windows applications, the feature
won't be missed that much.
Unlike Boot Camp, which Apple says is free and will be part of its
next-generation operating system, Parallels Workstation will cost users
about $50 when it is formally released. That seems a small price to pay
for the convenience of side-by-side operation. With either solution,
though, users will have to provide their own copy of Windows, currently a
$200 or so expenditure at retail.
The melding of Mac and Windows may not be an achievement on a par with the
driving of the "Golden Spike" to create a transcontinental rail link in
1869, but it's a nice way to bridge a computing gap and let users get more