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Microsoft's Virtualization Stance Eying Apple? 238

Posted by Zonk
from the shifty-glances dept.
Pisces writes "Over the past several days, Microsoft has flip-flopped on virtualization in Vista, with one ascribing the change in policy to concerns over DRM. A piece at Ars Technica raises another, more likely possibility: fear of Apple. Apple is technically an OEM, and could offer copies of Vista at a discounted price. 'All of this paints a picture in which Apple could use OEM pricing to offer Windows for its Macs at greatly reduced prices and running in a VM. The latter is absolutely crucial; telling users that they need to reboot into their Windows OS isn't nearly as sexy as, say, Coherence in Parallels. If you've never seen Coherence, it's quite amazing. You don't need to run Windows apps in a VM window of Vista. Instead, the apps appear to run in OS X itself, and the environment is (mostly) hidden away. VMWare also has similar technology, dubbed Unity.' Is Microsoft terrified of a world where Windows can be virtualized and forced to take a back seat to Mac OS X or Linux?"
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Microsoft's Virtualization Stance Eying Apple?

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  • by stubear (130454) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:49AM (#19648827)
    "Is Microsoft terrified of a world where Windows can be virtualized and forced to take a back seat to Mac OS X or Linux?" ...afraid of a world where anyone can obtain a copy of OSX and run it on a white box system instead of the "blessed" Jobsian hardware. Microsoft doesn't want users to virtualize Windows on other operating systems and Apple doesn't want users to run copies of OSX on white box systems. Stalemate.
  • by awb131 (159522) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @10:09AM (#19649007)
    There are a couple of major problems with this analysis:

    > Apple is technically an OEM, and could offer copies of Vista at a discounted price.

    Microsoft, in the past and at present, has used OEM contracts as their major tool for consolidating their hold on the industry. Their OEM agreements have contained such provisions as "if you want preferred pricing, you can't sell computers that run any other operating system." Only for very, very large computer makers such as Dell and HP -- where Microsoft wants to be because there's huge volume -- do they relax these demands. The likelihood of Microsoft offering Apple an OEM contract is extremely low if MS thought it would be a threat.

    Anyway, it's the business market, not the Joe Pirate market, that MS is concerned about.

    > Instead, the apps appear to run in OS X itself, and the environment is (mostly) hidden away.

    Except for, you know, the general crappiness of the apps. :)

    I think what MS fears is what a lot of people already know: the main thing that keeps Apple out of the business market is that there's always one or two apps you need that only run under Windows, or some web site you need to access that only works properly with IE. OSX is more reliable, easier to support, and once you've learned the tools it's somewhat easier to manage configuration over a bunch of machines than Windows. If I could use a Macbook every day and run IE and a couple of other specialty apps alongside my OSX apps, my business' next hardware purchases would be from Apple and not from HP as they have been in the past. We already have no intention of upgrading to Vista until it becomes necessary due to dropped patch support for XP. If this situation arises, Microsoft has lost their monopoly power over the PC OEM's, and the tower crumbles.

    Granted, this is more true for notebooks and dekstops than for servers and other infrastructure. But if I was managing a fleet of Macs for my employees, I'd start switching things over from Windows Server to OSX Server, too.
  • by Aging_Newbie (16932) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @10:13AM (#19649061)

    Virtualization, particularly when the virtualization is not terribly obvious, is a great threat to MS. I have a Windows box sitting in the corner to do those things for which Linux software does not exist. I fire it up after Patch Tuesday and then once in a while to run whatever it is I need. If I could have VMs (hardware is too limnited) then the same box would support my primary environment and Windows as a rarely used secondary. Not a pleasant place for MS to be when on other fronts they are wringing all the money they can from their products.

    Imagine if you will ... People using Open Office in Linux as their primary suite and resentfully starting up the non-standard MS Office to comply with a customer who hasn't seen the light ... Cleaning up the Windows instance from some attack while their Linux instance runs happily along ... Using Linux applications to create anything of lasting importance (without any trusted computing and DRM games) while using Windows for quickie throw-away stuff and interaction to comply with companies who are stuck in Windows environment ... People would begin to see Windows as an added cost instead of a part of overhead.

    With its DRM, cost, and licensing restrictions, Windows might quickly be relegated to a media player and other envronments would take their place as serious applications. People would acquire the minimum MS they need to use proprietary stuff (some banks, employer systems, etc) and that is it. Even worse, imagine a system vendor being able to sell you a VM box with a diagnostic instance, linux, and optionally Windows. Suddenly there is no stranglehold on support environments. Manufacturers would tend to virtualize their hardware so that it could be used from Windows as well as other OSs. Compatibility would be a major driver of hardware sales. MS would lose the lock on hardware support.

    So, in short, they have a big risk from virtualization and we can expect them to resist it as long as they can.
  • by mini me (132455) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @10:31AM (#19649299)

    Apple sells hardware.

    But people only buy that hardware because of Apple's software. So, while I'm sure they are making money from the hardware, it's the software that is the real money maker.
  • Re:Terrified? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @10:43AM (#19649443) Journal
    Not really. It relegates Microsoft to being an API seller. Windows becomes just another cross-platform API. The only difference between using Windows or something like Qt is that your customers have to pay if you use Windows.
  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @12:00PM (#19650557)

    I doubt that Microsoft is seriously worried about virtualization on OS X.
    So you have a more plausible explanation for the bizarre EULA flip-flopping? I do, but it is in ADDITION to their OS X worries...with virtualization users are able to bypass the DRM that keeps Vista proprietary. In other words, MS is trying to be like Apple, by making a closed architecture (and hoping it improves the functionality of their machines, like a Mac), but is failing, because they have a poor track record of successfully copying Apple tactics. Of course Apple doesn't allow OS X on other machines, because Apple is a hardware company first. There are only about 1,000,000,234 slasdhot threads on that topic. The difference is that Apple doesn't have a 95% market share, so they aren't bound by the same anti-competitive regulations.
  • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @12:05PM (#19650635)
    I agree that virtualization is the killer strategic App for Apple.

    Yes, some coders will just develop for Windows.

    But once people become accustomed to the Mac interface,.. the hurdle of transition is over. Perhaps that is the reason Apple has adopted the iTunes interface into parts of the finder in their Leopard OS. To sync with the iPhone -- you use iTunes. So the customer is already becoming acquainted with the Mac interface on Windows. The Safari browser, I'd expect, will probably be bundled with iTunes in the future. Not that it will blow people away on Windows... but when people are nervous about trojan horses, and are already used to the iPhone... well then, the browser becomes secondary to the services WITHIN the browser that people will become used to with the iPhone (and of course, developers get Safari as a platform to build for iPhone).

    Other than Video and 3D games, the performance of a Mac or PC is secondary now to the experience. Even virtualized apps will be fine. But once a person has a Mac -- they are unlikely to go back. And will probably upgrade to the Mac version of the populare applications when they next upgrade. I don't think the thousands of "shovel-ware" applications that Windows brags about, are anything people will miss. They are like the impulse purchases at a shopping checkout counter -- exciting to get, useless to have. And you can still run the things in virtual mode (they don't always run in native Windows -- like about half of my shovel-ware educational apps do now).

    But for 90% of the tasks of the average person, they will find the Apple iWork and iLife apps great alternatives.
    Though Apple needs to push a cheaper, or even free version of FileMaker -- which would make the average user realize they can use a database and that Access is dreadful.
    Apple also bundles QuickBooks NUE... but most people will stay with whatever solution they already have. That's why virtualization is so important.

    Apple needs a better "Get started for PC users" automated video to get some people over the hump.

    Apple also needs a bit more functionality in Mail.app to compete with Outlook. They already have a superior (more easy to access) webDav solution in .Mac. But they really need scheduling and calendering and the rest "bundled" into one interface so you can "see your day." I don't think anyone has done this perfectly. But Apple has all the infrastructure to get it done. This, more than Visual Basic, is the major hurdle for Apple in the office.

    But having used Applescript -- it's "seeming ease with common language" just makes it more of a PIA without making it easier. It has a lot of limitations and a need for a built in interface (that works for novices). That's another Hurdle Apple has not addressed for 3rd-party developers. Scheduling and automating the computer are "pretty good" but really not as reliable as I would like.

    But without Microsoft's control; goodbye Exchange. Which is their real cash cow.

    >> One very important thing I want to discover about the iPhone is if it will be useful for running KeyNote and Quartz compositions. Why, you might ask? Because with that, I can soup up any PowerPoint presentation and make the iPhone the next presentation system. We have lots of salespeople at my company -- and technolust is important for anyone wanting to make an impression. These people buy Mercedes before houses. So it has to be Uber-cool, which is why many have blackberry phones they can't use.

    If I can reformat presenations, to have a simple svideo pin-out from the iPhone to show on any projector, then the perfect communication/sales device will be the iPhone. I've already put up 6 kiosks in a PC-only company because of Quartz Composer. Once you add that to KeyNote, you have the movie-star glitz that will make presentation envy.

    Envy sells computers. It will also sell the iPhone if Apple is smart enough to make it accessible to hooking up presentations.

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @12:25PM (#19650965)

    Or, as others pointed out, Apple developers may decide to use Windows as their native platform since their apps will run seemlessly on both Macs and Windows, a much bigger market.

    That's assuming most Apple users will be buying Windows and some solution to make it integrate well. I don't think that is a reasonable assumption. Most of the people running Windows in an emulator are doing so because they are migrating away from Windows, or because they just need one or two apps. A few developers might drop support for the Mac, but they'd also lose that market share rapidly to someone whose software will run natively and will use all the features of OS X. The situation would be different if Apple were bundle a functioning copy of Windows, but I think that is extremely unlikely to ever happen.

    Then people start mainly running Windows apps. And then people maybe see no need to use the Mac OS as the middle man...

    In my experience most users who run OS X as their regular desktop for a few weeks will not even consider switching back to Windows once they are used to OS X. Apple's problem is getting them to shell out to try it without breaking their hardware tie which insulates them from MS's monopoly. MS's problem is stopping them from trying it, and trying to make using it as unpleasant and expensive as possible by making it harder to use their existing software and misc Windows programs. This licensing will probably help with the first, but may backfire for the latter, since it might just keep more users on WinXP, holding back adoption of MS's new lock-in technologies.

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