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Will Intel Macs run Windows? - Part 2
The answer is No. And Yes. And It Doesn't Really Matter. Here's why

Part 2: Yes : Why new Intel Macs will run Windows.
In part one, I presented three strikes that prevent the new Intel Macs from running Windows. In part two, I'll show why the existing problems are not insurmountable, and why solutions are likely just around the corner.

Windows currently can't boot under Intel Mac's EFI. The speculative press says Mac users may have to wait for Windows Vista, which plans to have EFI support built in. But who knows when Vista might arrive?

If you think about what firmware does, all that's really needed is an EFI shim that starts up Windows and presents it with a BIOS like environment. Products like Virtual PC already do this; emulating BIOS is rather easy because BIOS is brain dead simple. So while Intel Macs can't boot Windows today, it should be trivial to accommodate booting under EFI in the near future.
EFI is a shell environment. Intel's sample EFI startup implementation can already boot from the new Intel Macs, which demonstrates how EFI can be to create an alternative boot mode. However, remember that EFI isn't the only issue, or the most problematic, in getting the new Macs to boot Windows, despite it getting the most discussion to date.

Additional Hardware
In my previous article I stated that Apple is unlikely direct to its limited development resources toward providing Windows drivers for Mac hardware, just as Apple today devotes scant resources to assist Linux users. I also noted that Microsoft generally delegates the task of writing drivers for custom hardware to OEMs. Lastly, I mentioned the problems the open source community has in writing support for hardware that is closed and undocumented.

So who will get Windows running on Macs? Well, consider that for Microsoft, Apple isn't just another PC maker. Microsoft may recognize Intel Macs as a serious opportunity to sell additional retail copies of Windows, and deliver the needed driver support themselves.

The company already sells a copy of Windows with almost every PC sold, albeit at a bundled OEM price. The historically short lifespan of PCs means that most PC users don't upgrade their copy of Windows, but rather hold off and just buy a new PC. That means most Windows users end up with the next version of Windows without every paying for a retail box.

In a similar vein, most corporate customers have site licensing agreements that allow them to broadly license Windows and upgrade to the latest version at minimal cost. As well, corporate installer media doesn't require activation, making piracy a common alternative to paying for license upgrades at many companies.

This piracy cuts into Microsoft potential profits, but more draconian licensing would eat away at Windows' monopoly market share, so there's little Microsoft can do in either direction. All things considered, Microsoft's capacity to increase sales of high profit, full retail boxes is therefore limited on many fronts.

Microsoft's interest in selling more full price copies of Windows is obvious from their purchase of Connectix's Virtual PC. The company has already committed to adapting Virtual PC to run on Intel Macs, but this will require some work. Virtual PC currently is a full emulation system designed to run Windows (slowly) on entirely incompatible hardware.

They'll need to build the new version nearly from scratch, since there's little to emulate on the new Intel Macs. If Microsoft delivers the Windows drivers for Apple specialized hardware, all that's left to abstract in software is the BIOS. If the above described EFI workaround becomes a reality, VirtualPC won't even need to do that.

Unfortunately, it appears that Microsoft did not anticipate that Apple would deliver Intel Macs six months ahead of schedule, and so were completely unprepared to even announce vaporware. However, even if Microsoft stumbles with Virtual PC for Intel Macs as they have with Vista, it seems safe to expect third parties to jump in and deliver alternatives.

However, there's one particularly tricky bit still remaining for getting Windows running on the new Macs: the new partition table technology.

Continued: Partition table drive support


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