Feeds

Is Apple coding Leopard to run Windows apps natively?

Or just making life easier for Parallels and VMWare?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Is Apple covertly working on a direct Windows application compatibility for Mac OS X? Some observers have suggested that it may well be after it was discovered that Leopard will attempt to load Portable Executable (PE) files when asked and even try to find relevant Windows Dynamic Linked Libraries (DLLs).

Leopard's PE support was uncovered by one Stephen Edwards, who'd been working with Wine, the open source version of the Windows application programming interface (API). He found that Leopard's Dynamic Linker (Dyld) will try to load a PE file. Soon after, Leopard's hunt for DLLs referenced by the PE file appeared as further evidence that the presence of PE support may not simply be a hang over from Apple's use of the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)

PE is EFI's standard method for encoding executables. So what is PE? It's essentially a way of packaging an executable application, associated resources and code libraries into a single unit. Mac OS X already does something broadly similar with its applications, bundles and frameworks: stores them all in a well-defined folder structure that the user interface presents as a single entity, making it easy to move them around without losing key elements of code.

While the appearance of PE handling in Leopard and the OS' incorporation of EFI might simply be a co-incidence, it's been found that Tiger doesn't handle PE files the same way as Leopard does, indicating the behaviour incovered by Edwards and others is new to Mac OS X 10.5. Indeed, Wine forum posters have shown that Tiger emphatically rejects attempt to load PEs.

Still, it's a big leap to suggest that Leopard's behaviour is a sign of Windows support to come. Firstly, Leopard isn't a simple upgrade to Tiger - there's clearly been more work done under the hood this time round than between Tiger and Panther, and Panther and Jaguar before that. It's entirely plausible that Apple's coders didn't get round to disabling PE support in Leopard as they did in Tiger.

More likely, though, is that this is a tweak made to help the likes of Parallels and VMWare more tightly integrate their Windows-on-Mac tools with the host operating system. Parallels in particular tries to allow Mac users to run Windows apps as if they were native applcations rather than apps running on Windows running in a Mac OS X window.

Apple's keen on this approach. During his Worldwide Developers Conference keynote last July, Steve Jobs lauded Parallels' and VMWare's apps as improvements on Apple's own Boot Camp, which is more about running Windows on Mac hardware than running Windows apps within Mac OS X itself.

Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion are all useful tools to persuade Windows users to switch to Apple hardware, particularly in the business world. It's a strategy that may not succeed, of course, but it's not one that's hard to implement - virtualisation's part of the Intel chips Apple is using these days - but may just pay dividends.

The downside with virtualisation is that it limits the CPU resources available to host and guest operating system, though as processors gain more cores, that will increasingly become less of a problem.

The question becomes, is it better for Apple to improve Mac OS X's support for third-party virtualisation apps in the meantime or go the whole hog and implement the Windows API - or, rather, an API that's compatible with it - into the operating system?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.