Parallels and VMware Are Gateway Drugs to Windows

by Hadley Stern Sep 17, 2007

I’m seeing it more and more. Friends, family, and co-workers are enamored by the Mac not because of OS X but because now they can, if they need to (or want to), run Windows on it. First it was Apple itself incredibly releasing Boot Camp and then others have come along, notably Parallels and VMware, that allow one to run Windows within OS X.

This isn’t like the Virtual PC of old days, where you could sort of run Windows in a sluggish environment. Running Windows in Parallels and VMware makes it possible to use Windows all day as fast, if not faster, than on a Dell, HP, etc. On the face of it this sounds like a great thing. More hardware sales for Apple, and more “Apple” users, but in the long term it is a horrible thing for the Mac platform.

As Parallels and VMware become as common as the OS X they run off, of a few things are inevitable. Firstly, those Mac users who think they are using the Mac are actually using it less and less, if at all. Probably the greatest culprit of this is a Microsoft program, Outlook, that is used by the majority of corporate America (not sure about the rest of the world). Microsoft’s Macintosh answer to Outlook is an email client full of compromises called Entourage. Microsoft used to make a true MAPI client to their Exchange server with their excellent OS 9 client Outlook. Microsoft, proving that the future does not always bring progress, created a non-MAPI email client for OS X called Entourage. But for any power user Entourage is a no-no; you can’t forward invites, you can’t do out-of-office, and, most damaging, there are numerous documented issues with calendar synchronization. This leads to users getting very frustrated and switching to Paroles or VMware. As an aside, it looks like Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, will still have a crapilicious email client with Office 2008.

Booting up Parallels or VMware to check email seems innocuous enough. After all, it’s just for email, right? Wrong. What happens when you click on a link in an email? A Windows browser (most likely IE) launches. And if you are emailed an image to look at? Windows too. Suddenly, just checking email really becomes switching. And unlike Apple’s TV campaign, this switch often sticks. After all, email is King in our lives. And if we are going to have a better experience with it we will go where that experience is. Unfortunately, in this example better means works.

Where will this all lead? Inevitably some companies will stop developing software for both platforms. Why bother? Everyone will soon have either Parallels or VMware. This will lead to the slow death of the OS X platform as the ROI for developing for both Windows and Mac makes less and less sense.

But perhaps more upsetting is that Parallels and VMware are like the surrender flag to Macs in the corporate environment. As they are an easy answer for IT to meet the needs of Mac users, true integration becomes less and less important.

Eventually this leads to Mac users (switchers maybe in the first place) switching back to a Windows box entirely. After all, if you are living in Parallels or VMware all day then isn’t your Mac just like a Dell? It’s a piece of hardware that runs Windows that happens to be made by Apple.

This is why Parallels and VMware are gateway drugs. Using the Nancy Reagan philosophy of “Just Say No,” there is no safe amount of usage for either tool. Both of them, inevitably, will lead to less and less time with OS X and more time with Windows. But just saying no is hard. And saying yes could be the death of the Mac platform.


  • Okay, I’ve officially had it with this entire website.  I don’t know why I’ve kept coming back here for so long.  The writers here are grammatically inept, and seem to have little actual knowledge about what they write. I thought this site was a pro-Mac/Apple site. The only thing here is (usually unfounded) negativity in a majority of the articles. Enough!  I shall never come back, but I’m certain none of you cares.

    Flame me.  Go ahead. I’ll never know it.

    chyronct had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 7
  • I think this article presents and interesting and very plausible possibility.  And in my case, its dead on as this is exactly what happened to me.

    I purchased my Mac Book Pro at the end of last year in an effort to generate a last minute business expense.  I also needed a new laptop at the time and being a micro ISV I was curious about developing software for Mac OS.

    However, thanks to Boot Camp, I find that I mainly use the laptop running in Vista; especially if I’m on-site at a client’s office.  Occasionally I’ll use Parallels or VMWare from inside Mac OS if I don’t need to launch anything heavy.  However, since I’m mainly running Visual Studio or SQL Server I usually have to dual boot and run Vista un-virtualized.

    As a result, I find that I hardly ever use the laptop in its native Mac OS X environment.

    ejstembler had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 3
  • It’s a slippery slope argument at best, sorry. In Parallels 3.0, the whole argument about clicking on an attachment or URL in Outlook and having it open in a Windows program is nullified since the SmartSelect feature lets you set Mac-native programs as file type and protocol handlers in Windows.

    Honou Flammen had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 2
  • I can only speak for myself and wile I understand there are cases like poster #2 I suspect the reality is the opposite of what the article says.

    In my case I switched only about 3 months ago. One of the reasons I switched now is because of Parallels and knowing I can use Windows whenever I need to.  I work in finance and really need Excel 2003, the Mac version doesn’t cut it for me.

    But outside some specialized programs I spend all my time in OSX and, more and more, I look for OSX programs for all my needs. Parallels allows Excel 2003 to act as an OSX program since it’s simply another window.

    My wife, who generally doesn’t care much for computers, couldn’t get why I liked my new MacBook Pro so much. On a recent trip she played around with iWeb and finally got a family website going. Results? She will be getting a MacBook soon and the family will move to an iMac!

    If, as I understand, Macs are not just selling more but are also gaining market share I suspect there will be more and more cases like mine.

    gabriel had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Hadley,
      VM products like Parallels and Fusion can indeed impact Apple.  I’m curious to see what the next decade brings.  I believe that we’re moving towards a ubiquitious hardware platform.  We now have Linux/Windows and OS X running on X86 hardware.  What if the future brings computers that ship with all 3 major OS and the consumer decides which OS to unlock and each OS runs in a VM environment? 

    The OS just becomes another application.  Imagine that Apple gets a small fraction of EVERY computer sale regardless of whether the user unlocks the OS or not.  It’s a win/win for everyone but perhaps Linux which has so many flavors no one company stands to profit.

    At any rate I expect that Mac only applications are going to become more popular as Apple improves development tools and provides incentive to be Mac only.

    The future is fearsome…and fascinating all at the same time.

    hmurchison had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 145
  • This article seems to put the lie to the notion that even switchers who use VMWare/Parallels will discover OS X and eventually stop using Windows altogether.  I’m not so sure that’s true though.  I use VMWare but I still spend most of my time in OS X because, as good as VMWare is, it’s still slower than non-virtualization.

    For me personally, my Vista beta finally expired and I had to actually purchase a stand-alone copy because I found that I simply couldn’t do my work without it.  Not to mention my iMac went belly-up last week and will cost me $800 to fix, which means whatever chance there was that I’d recommend Macs to anyone who didn’t want to run FCP is out the window for good. 

    So I am now in an all-Windows world until I get my iMac back from the shop.  And for the most part, there is very little difference (as long as I’m not editing).  I still run the same apps and do the same things.  Because I have Foxmarks and Gmail and I can instantly sync my mail and bookmarks on any computer I use, regardless of platform.

    At the end of the day, if as they say Apple is a hardware company, then why should they care if people buy Apple hardware to use OS X or not?  A sale is a sale I guess.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • What if the future brings computers that ship with all 3 major OS and the consumer decides which OS to unlock and each OS runs in a VM environment?

    I for one have been a long-time advocate of Apple licensing OS X to other hardware vendors, a view not particularly popular in the Apple fanboy community for reasons that continue to fall short of persuading.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Hadley, I can see you are playing Devil’s Advocate with this piece, something probably missed by chyronet.

    I’m very curious about your Freudian slip, referring to Parallels as “Paroles”. Made me laugh.

    The argument has merit, but I think there’s also plenty of evidence of the reverse happing, people putting Windows on their Mac and finding they use it less and less.

    In a corporate environment, dependent on so many Windows-only applications, there’s not a lot of sense in installing Macs and the situation you describe will certainly come about.

    However, in a corporate environment where Macs are required, then virtualization is very useful. Off the top of my head, though, I can’t think of any Mac only Apps that would be required in a corporate situation.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • something probably missed by chyronet.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of readers here either don’t notice the word or miss the definition entirely of “irreverent.” 

    Frankly, the site could use more not less of it.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • It’s interesting - Since the Intel introduction I have noticed that clients are more willing to get a Mac now that it runs windows well enough. Those same people used to notice that it was better to keep to the Mac, and they generally used Windows less over time - Parallels was more of a safety net.

    I do less consulting now and I’m not sure of the trend here - but I wonder if (as Hadley claims) having Windows even more seamlessly integrated with the MacOS with the latest coherence & smartselect has finally removed all incentive to try to use OSX apps where possible. Interesting thoughts.

    ps. Various web sites have reported that Entourage 2008 for the Mac integrates far more effectively into Exchange environments. This is the first I’ve read otherwise - who says it doesn’t look like this?

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 228
  • pps. As far as accuracy & grammar goes, this site and others are less grammatically correct than major papers… but probably more accurate. What’s more, it’s the follow up comments that correct and expand on the article that can be really valuable, like Honou Flammen’s major correction that Outlook email can open attachments in Safari & other Mac programs quite easily.

    I hope that sites like these eventually allow for an article to be written, commented on, and rewritten (with links to older versions) so that the quality of the main article increases for the casual readers. At some point, major newspapers may notice the high quality of articles possible - when they are written by smaller sites and then corrected & honed by the community over 2 or 3 days.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 228
  • I just read that Entourage 2008 will specifically address out-of-office replies, among things, that users have had to work around in previous versions. 

    What I’m wondering is if is so bad or unserious that it doesn’t merit a mention as an alternative to a Microsoft product on the Mac.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • As a long-time Apple & MS user, OS flipping allows a mix of use that benefits Apple. The qualities of most Mac software draws and keeps dedicated users, as well as enticing newcomers. MS software is the dented pickup for hauling when you have to. You may have added new paint and rims, but it’s still a bumpy ride with lousy mileage.

    I gave-away my last WinXP machine and use Bootcamp for the two Win. bus. programs I must output data from. I tried VM and prefer BC for limited Win needs.

    No problem substituting ‘Mail’ for the years accumulation in Outlook. Forced me to clear out a ton of useless info.

    hotep had this to say on Sep 17, 2007 Posts: 13
  • interesting article. It might be time for the Mac evangelists to concede that the modern computer world is all about flexibility, and getting the end result that you require. I love my mac and live on it daily, but I still use a windows machine when needed as well.

    smalpass had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I don’t agree that VMWare and Parallels are “gateway drugs” to Windows. While there are applications that are only available for Windows, by and large, most people who use both operating systems are going to grow to prefer OS X. Unlike Windows, OS X doesn’t require as much maintenance, care, feeding, and diapering, and it isn’t constantly popping up pointless or self-congratulatory messages. It seems more often than not I’ve sat down at Windows to do a 15-minute task and ended up doing three hours of maintenance before I could get it done.

    The silliest error message I ever saw was in Vista. I tried and failed to connect to the corporate VPN. Vista popped up a verbose but very well written error message explaining all the things that could have gone wrong. It actually told me to check if the computer was on!

    So I connected to the VPN from my iMac. See how the transition works?

    Hugmup had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 40
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