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Digital River - Talk to the Experts

CherryOS Sparks Talk of Virtualization Wars

By Jennifer LeClaire MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 21, 2004 9:58 AM PT

As the tech world focuses on digital media, quarterly earnings and search engine functionality, the battle of the future is starting to take shape. Some analysts are calling it one of the biggest high-tech trends for the second half of the decade.

CherryOS Sparks Talk of Virtualization Wars

What is it? A one-word battle cry: "Virtualization!"

Indeed, the virtualization waters are getting hotter with two announcements inside as many weeks at separate ends of the emulation spectrum.

First, Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit launched Virtual PC for Mac Version 7 with Windows XP Professional and Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Professional Edition. Then, a Hawaiian company specializing in streaming video introduced CherryOS, a virtual PC that mimics the hardware of a G4 Mac.

Ripe for the Pickin'

While most Mac addicts are familiar with Microsoft's software for users who sometimes need to run Windows and work with PC-only software, few, if anyone, has heard of Maui X-Stream, the company behind CherryOS that has been greeted with widespread skepticism and even accusations of pulling a hoax on the Mac community.

But CherryOS inventor Arben Kryeziu, a software developer who got tired of carrying both a Mac and a PC all over the Hawaiian Islands, is confident that the computing world will find value in his innovation.

"Think about it," Kryeziu said. "Now about 600 million PC users can have the Mac advantage. You can build and test applications for a Mac on your development PC, test Web site design for Mac Web browsers without having to buy the hardware, and run OS X, the world's best operating system, on a less expensive hardware platform and use your favorite Mac apps on a PC."

CherryOS is a 7 MB download that includes the G4 processor's multimedia-boosting Velocity Engine, support for USB, FireWire and Ethernet. The cost is US$49.95. Apple charges $129 for its Mac OS X.

A Bite Out of Apple Sales?

Microsoft has little to loose from the various Windows emulators on the market, save a few lost sales of its new Virtual PC. But programs from companies like CherryOS and Transitive are a sure threat to Apple.

And those aren't the only threats. Even Intel has demonstrated a hardware emulator that will run the MacOS with a minimal performance penalty. Also, Sun was recently bragging to analysts about its ability to run the Mac OS on x86 hardware.

Could consumers who want to by a Mac opt for a cheaper PC and run CherryOS, potentially taking a bite out of Apple's growing business? Gartner G2 analyst Mike McGuire told MacNewsWorld that this type of exodus is certainly possible but not probable.

"Emulators work, but in many cases they are slow," McGuire said. "But people who have a Mac and need to fit into a PC environment will find it valuable."

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld that Apple could perceive virtualization software like CherryOS as a legitimate danger. Judging by how Apple killed Mac clone licenses in 1997-98, the computer maker could take a hard stance against CherryOS, he said.

"Apple could find itself competing with the PC manufacturers for its own user base," Enderle said. "It could be problematic for Apple if PCs run both Windows and the Mac OS while Macs only run the Mac OS.

"So for those folks who actually have to do real work on both platforms, unless they want to carry two machines, the Apple solution won't be a good solution for them," he added. "Apple would just assume this not happen."

Broader Issues Looming

Analysts said there are a couple of broader issues in the looming virtualization wars. The latest development with CherryOS just magnifies Apple's need to address the Mac community's call for the ability to run both Windows and Apple applications on the same machine, Enderle said.

"If you can't embrace Windows applications, then eventually your market goes away," Enderle said. "So Apple has to figure out a way to embrace the Windows applications, which would suggest that if anyone is going to do the emulation and do it well, it should probably be Apple."

Regardless of which side of the emulation fence Apple settles on, analysts expect to see widespread use of emulation software in the years to come. Emulators virtualize the hardware and provide a constant software image. That means a corporation would not have to manage images for each distinct piece of hardware on its campus.

"There's a fairly major drive toward virtualization, primarily because it makes buying a new piece of hardware and moving files over to it very simple," Enderle said. "From the corporate standpoint of not having to track and maintain software images, it could save millions of dollars."

Digital River - Talk to the Experts
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