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The Prospects For Virtualizing OS X 344

Posted by kdawson
from the not-holding-our-breath dept.
seriouslywtf writes in with a look at the current state of the question: will people eventually be able to run Mac OS X in a virtual machine, either on the Mac or under Windows? Ars Technica has articles outlining the positions of two VM vendors, Parallels and VMWare. Both have told Ars unequivocally that they won't enable users to virtualize OS X until Apple explicitly gives them the thumbs up. First, Parallels: "'We won't enable this kind of functionality until Apple gives their blessing for a few reasons,' Rudolph told Ars. 'First, we're concerned about our users — we are never going to encourage illegal activity that could open our users up to compromised machines or any sort of legal action. This is the same reason why we always insist on using a fully-licensed, genuine copy of Windows in a virtual machine — it's safer, more stable, fully supported, and completely legal.'" And from VMWare: "'We're very interested in running Mac OS X in a virtual machine because it opens up a ton of interesting use cases, but until Apple changes its licensing policy, we prefer to not speculate about running Mac OS X in a virtualized environment,' Krishnamurti added."
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The Prospects For Virtualizing OS X

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  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:17PM (#17991250) Homepage Journal
    OS X is already virtualised - it has been for ages. [osx86project.org] Not supported, but certainly doable.

    Be nice if Apple gave a bit more help to their customers however - I am not a big fan of artifical restrictions.
    • by Dark Kenshin (764678) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:27PM (#17991362) Journal

      It seems to me the article is talking more about the legality of doing it, not the possibility. Apple therefore, has no obligation to support something it doesn't license.

      I do agree with you about the restrictions. If I legally obtain OS X, there should no reason I shouldn't be able to run it under a virtual environment.

      • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:35PM (#17991450) Homepage Journal
        It seems to me the article is talking more about the legality of doing it, not the possibility.

        Although the article does talk about the 'legality' of running OS X on non-Mac PCs, it would seem to me that there is nothing illegal about this whatsoever (as long as you've purchased your copy of OS X, you should be able to do what you like with it).

        No matter how vmware & parallels dress it up, the problem here is not legality, but fear of reprisals from Apple.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by timmarhy (659436)
          "No matter how vmware & parallels dress it up, the problem here is not legality, but fear of reprisals from Apple."

          you just controdicted yourself in the same sentence. any form of reprisal WILL take the form of legal action, hence the legality of it is the issue.

          • by LordNimon (85072) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:56PM (#17991694)
            There's a difference between "legal action" and "illegal". A company could instruct its lawyer to send you a C&D letter. That's technically a "legal action". However, what you are doing may not be illegal, and you may be forced to prove that in court if the company sues you for ignoring it's C&D demand.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            you just controdicted yourself in the same sentence. any form of reprisal WILL take the form of legal action,

            Whilst Apple may take legal reprisals, the easiest form of reprisal (against Parallels) would be to simply stop selling parallels [apple.com] at the Apple store. How do you think that would affect sales?

            Oh - and if you'd actually bothered to read either article before posting, you would have seen non-legal reprisals mentioned:

            Legal issues aside, Parallels doesn't want to strain its relationship with Apple, who

        • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:50PM (#17991626)
          Apple's software license for OS X says that you can only run it on Apple hardware.

          Actually, looking here http://www.apple.com/legal/sla/ [apple.com], the phrase is "This License allows you to install and use one copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time."

          So it sounds like if you write "Apple" on a Post It and stick to your PC, you can virtualize away.
        • by suitepotato (863945) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:55PM (#17991688)
          No matter how vmware & parallels dress it up, the problem here is not legality, but fear of reprisals from Apple.

          This statement brings to mind images of young casually dressed men and women storming their offices with gayly decorated weapons with rainbow Apple logos and shouting grammatically incorrect and utterly meaningless slogans that nevertheless get great press and everyone forgets about it by three days out because they're too busy writing op-ed pieces on the relative social and economic costs and benefits of trying to break up Microsoft again.

          Well, it did.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by GlassHeart (579618)

          it would seem to me that there is nothing illegal about this whatsoever (as long as you've purchased your copy of OS X, you should be able to do what you like with it).

          IIRC, US Courts have ruled that installing software constitutes copying (from CD or DVD to hard disk), and violates copyright unless otherwise licensed. The license in question stipulates that you can only run MacOS X on Apple-branded hardware.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2007 @09:18PM (#17991898)
            Take a deep breath, and repeat after me: The world is not the USA. The USA is not the world.

            There are plenty of other countries that take the viewpoint of installing a program onto a hard drive, and running it, as being an expected part of using the software, and hence not in violation of copyright. Installing it onto a second hard drive without wiping it off the first, on the other hand, is (and fair enough too.)

            In those countries, you do not need a license granted to you to use the software - it is implicitely granted when you purchase the software. This may make it perfectly legitimate to use the software in manners that contradict the EULA.

            Naturally, the usual disclaimers apply: I am not a lawyer; this is not legal advice; seek a lawyer for information relevant to your specific situation; etc., etc., etc.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Sparr0 (451780)
            I believe you are incorrect. I cannot cite any specific precedents one way or the other, but the letter of the law is quite clear on the subject:

            (a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy.-- Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided:
            (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilizat

        • Doesn't work that way. Apple's EULA states that Mac OS X can only be installed on an Apple branded Macintosh. No generic PC, no virtual machine.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Dark Kenshin (764678)

          Although the article does talk about the 'legality' of running OS X on non-Mac PCs, it would seem to me that there is nothing illegal about this whatsoever (as long as you've purchased your copy of OS X, you should be able to do what you like with it).

          'Should' is not the same as 'is'. There is a lot of things you should be able to do with the stuff you buy, but that doesn't stop it from still being illegal

          No matter how vmware & parallels dress it up, the problem here is not legality, but fear of r

        • by QuantumG (50515) *
          As with all copyright questions, the answer is "I don't know". The Mac OS X EULA says you can only run the software on Apple hardware. End of story? Well, no, because you don't sign the EULA before you buy the product. If you've paid for the product but not agreed to the EULA, assuming that is even legally possible where you live, do you have any rights? I don't know. No-one knows. That's the great thing about copyright.. it's totally vague. Whether or not you will have to pay a lot of money if Appl
          • by myowntrueself (607117) on Monday February 12, 2007 @10:46PM (#17992744)
            The Mac OS X EULA says you can only run the software on Apple hardware.

            I don't get it.

            If I run Firefox on an XP virtual machine running on Apple hardware, then that instance of Firefox *IS* running on Apple hardware; it uses Apple memory and CPU in order to do its thing.

            If I run OSX in a virtual machine running on Apple hardware then OSX *IS* running on Apple hardware, surely this is the end of the story?

            Unless Apple *specifically* exclude virtualisation, I think its a red herring.
        • by blibbler (15793)
          as long as you've purchased your copy of OS X, you should be able to do what you like with it
          Regardless of how much you have spent on it, you are still subject to the terms of a license agreement. If I purchase a copy of Redhat Linux, I don't have the right to change the source, and re-sell it without the source-code.
        • The only way to purchase a copy of OS X is to buy Apple hardware. Anything else is a software update IIUC. This means that yes, it should be possible to buy a Mac, then transfer the OS over to a whitebox PC, and delete it from the Mac. It goes against part of the EULA, but that part would be deemed unenforceable in most nations (including the US) I think.

          What could you do with the Mac? Well, you could install Linux on it, for starters :)

        • (as long as you've purchased your copy of OS X, you should be able to do what you like with it).

          You don't own the software, you've bought a limited license to it. Whether we like it or not, courts have upheld shrinkwrapped licenses.

          Thus, you have the right to use OS-X in exactly the way Apple specifies (i.e. on Apple hardware only) or, if you have never done so, return it for a full refund.

          It may not be criminally illegal for you to violate that contract but it is a violation of a contract and thus illegal
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          it would seem to me that there is nothing illegal about this whatsoever (as long as you've purchased your copy of OS X, you should be able to do what you like with it).
          Sure it's illegal. You have to break Apple's DRM to use it in a virtual machine. That' a direct violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and similar laws in various other countries outside of the U.S.
    • Apple likely doesn't bother with fringe techies doing weird things. But if VMware or another "real" vendor tried to break vendor lock on the hardware / software package that comprises the Apple product line, then I fully expect screaming and wailing from Apple's legal corps. Or at least very threatening letters. Ain't gonna happen. Maybe virtual OS X images on a Apple server, but how big is that market?
  • so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by President_Camacho (1063384) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:21PM (#17991294) Homepage
    Both [vendors] have told Ars unequivocally that they won't enable users to virtualize OS X until Apple explicitly gives them the thumbs up.

    So what do people say when vendors behave the same way towards Microsoft?
    • Re:so... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:28PM (#17991384) Homepage Journal
      So what do people say when vendors behave the same way towards Microsoft?

      I don't know about people - I can only give my opinion. But I'd say "Microsoft Sucks for doing that."
    • by Rutulian (171771)
      Interesting question. Is VMWare going to check your Windows version (Vista Home vs. Vista Business) before letting you run it in a virtual machine? After all, it's against the license if you are running Home. This sounds like a backroom deal to me. VMWare has never cared about licenses before. Yeah, sure, they say use only a legally licensed copy of Windows, but they don't try to stop you from downloading an illegal copy and using it in a virtual machine (I'm not even sure they could if they wanted to).
  • by Jartan (219704) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:32PM (#17991428)
    It's obvious they will never give "permission" to do this. Their whole business model is based on using OS X as a driving force to sell their hardware with high profit margins. Some people might agree that they could survive going the other way but Apple doesn't seem convinced.

    That being said I doubt they can do much to stop it. It'll be interesting to see what kind of court cases get brought up over virtualization though. Perhaps they could finally bring the whole EULA nonsense to an end.
  • by oedneil (871555) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:32PM (#17991436) Homepage
    For the same reason I don't believe Apple will ever release its software for installation on PCs. Hardware sales are where Apple makes its money, and who would really buy the hardware if they could install OS X on a $300 Walmart PC?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:45PM (#17991570)
      Pretty much no-one. Apple proved this already during the cloning debacle - people immediately started buying Power Computing, Umax, Motorola and other clones because they offered higher CPU specs at the same or lower prices.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    After getting dumped by IBM after IBM landed all three console manufacturers as clients, Apple was pushed closer to being nothing but an overpriced x86 OEM with nice industrial polish and typography.

    OS X running freely in the x86 wild pretty much means the death of Apple hardware. Apple has known this for some time now and it is why they are turning their attention towards the iPod side of the company, changing the company name to downplay desktop computers, and have started to slow the OS X upgrade cycle.
    • by wtmcgee (113309) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:42PM (#17991522) Homepage
      I respectfully disagree. A lot of people care about the entire 'experience' of Apple products, from the quality packaging, to the clean, amazing hardware, to the OS. If Dell started selling OS X on their machines tomorrow, people would certainly jump ship and buy cheaper machines. But I can almost assure you Apple would still be around. I think they just know it's important to their brand to not have another 'clone war' like the mid 90s.

      Personally, if Apple licensed OS X, I'd probably buy a cheap HP or Dell desktop for use around the house or for my parents ... but I certainly wouldn't stop buying Apple hardware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by toonerh (518351) *
      Someone already moderated this as "Troll", and I won't disagree.

      IBM never intended to compete fully with Intel and AMD for the desktop market considering Apple's 5% market share. On the other hand, IBM appears determined to continue with improved Power processors for their high-end desktop and server market -- as well as the imbedded market which now includes highly visible gaming consoles, but it has been around for over a decade.

      Also PA SEMI [pasemi.com] has a great new low power PowerPC chip.

      The x86 hardware
  • by csoto (220540) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:47PM (#17991576)
    at WWDC 2006, explaining that we would pay extra for Mac OS X Server, if it were possible to run it under VMware ESX. The ability to run Mac OS X (Server or otherwise) under Fusion or Parallels Desktop or even VMWare/Parallels Workstation would also provide a strategic advantage and encourage us to maintain our subscription levels (well over 400 seats today).

    Would "virtualizable" OS X lead to piracy? Probably. But as with most piracy, it would not necessarily impact actual sales. Pirates steal things they wouldn't have ever paid for anyway...
    • I agree, and that is the number one reason I think Jobs' DRM 'open letter' is just a giant bluff. They basically put DRM on the installation of their OS, and no record company is forcing them to.
    • by pschmied (5648) on Monday February 12, 2007 @10:23PM (#17992502) Homepage
      Most people who use OS X for any time at all love it. Why not give everybody a chance to love it? Why not let developers get a taste for the development tools without buying a new system? What do you think their next computer purchase will look like?

      They could work with VMWare to create an appropriately DRMed player if they are that paranoid about piracy. VMWare already has their ACE platform that could probably be extended to include some sort of virtual TPM.

      Offer OS X as a bundle with a specially modified VMWare player. Let 90% of PC users see what they've been missing. I bet any piracy will be dwarfed by the gains in market share.

      The best case scenario I see for Apple would be for some smart cookie to write a minimal Linux distro that boots up VMWare and OS X inside--a poor man's OS X if you will. Users of such a configuration are likely to be the geeks. They'll start learning ObjC and Cocoa and maybe increase the platform's worth. Even if some geeks are content to run an unsupported configuration like this, and *never* purchase a proper Mac, they'll be a force for conversion and software development.

      -Peter
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jafac (1449)
        Most people who use OS X for any time at all love it. Why not give everybody a chance to love it?

        They don't give a crap if anybody USES OS X.
        They want to sell hardware.

        That's why they let people run Windows, or Linux, or Solaris x86, on their hardware, if that's what they want to do. I agree that Apple has "hardware profits" blinders on. But what can you do?

        (My guess is that soon, someone, somewhere, out there, will try this, and have it working anyway, with or without Apple's sanctions)
  • by AusIV (950840) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:48PM (#17991592)
    Anybody who has used much virtualization knows it's not as good as running the OS on hardware. Apple could permit OSX to run on virtual machines so people could get a taste of it without having to buy new hardware, but buying new hardware would have enough benefits that I don't see this cutting in to Mac sales.

    The flipside though is that people may try OSX on a Virtual Machine, not realizing that VMs cut performance significantly, decide that OSX is slow and useless, then stick with Windows. I guess I can see either way.

    • by batkiwi (137781)
      The number one reason for using VMWare Workstation is development and testing. I'd say the number two is demoing.

      This is due to many things, but the most useful of which is its snapshot ability. You can make a clean image and then test against it each time, or even "branch" the same base image for different service packs/etc.
    • by Wolfier (94144)
      >Apple could permit OSX to run on virtual machines so people could get a taste of it

      It's exactly what Apple fears...people getting "bad taste" out of a virtual session and decided not to get a Mac.

      Of course, much of the bad taste is due to the emulation speed and compatibility, but people will blame it on Apple nonetheless.

      It makes perfect sense to them to never allow Virtualization on a non-Apple machine.

      On the other hand, nothing stops them from releasing their own virtualization software.
    • by fyoder (857358)

      Anybody who has used much virtualization knows it's not as good as running the OS on hardware.

      I run XP in a vm with no problems. Of course, the only games I play on it are freecell and hearts. For things that don't lean on the hardware it's fine. And as hardware gets beefier and beefier it will get finer and finer. Gotta do something with all those cores that are going to be on our processors.

      Apple may have some legit concerns with regard to their current model, but perhaps they should consider cha

  • by Florian (2471) <cantsin@zedat.fu-berlin.de> on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:50PM (#17991622) Homepage
    Mac OS X makes heavy use of hardware accelerated functions: Quartz/Aqua 3D graphics (which unlike Vista's Aero can't be turned off), GPU-rendered graphics processing among others in CoreImage and iMovie, low-latency sound in CoreAudio, ... - likely making it perhaps the worst candidate for virtualization among all operating systems.
    • a) Virtualization support for hardware like the graphics card is coming, and it'll arrive faster if there's a killer app like MacOS virtualization driving it.

      b) It's extremely useful for developers, eg testing stuff that can crash the system, or testing stuff against various different OS revisions. Even if it's a bit slower, it's still faster than rebooting the whole machine.

      c) This doesn't matter at all on the server, where MacOS is the only OS of consequence that can't run as a guest in a VM. There is a l
    • by sootman (158191)
      OS X is fine--not fast, but usable--on non-accelerated hardware. OS X takes advantage of, but doesn't require, any fancy hardware. We' got 10.4 running on a bunch of 400-533 MHz Macs with non-Quartz Extreme graphics cards at work. I don't think virtualization would be a problem. iMovie ran fine in 10.2 on my 300 MHz beige G3 with 384 MB RAM. It dropped frames on display but the actual captures and renders were fine. Besides, for servers it wouldn't be a problem. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if virtualiz
  • ...They don't even have the courage to say "It's totally feasible we just can't release it because Apple would sue us into next Tuesday."

    But I suppose you attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Maybe they genuinely aren't irritated about this licensing issue and just want to pressure Apple into opening negotiations. Certainly, the recent change from Apple Computer Inc to Apple, Inc. is a good sign--they've acknowledge their business is more diverse than just hardware--they are as much a software comp
  • Isn't it ironic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davmoo (63521) on Monday February 12, 2007 @09:15PM (#17991870)
    Hmmm...I don't seem to remember any companies having those concerns about running Windows virtualized. And I certainly don't recall Microsoft giving their blessings to anyone to do so.

    Double standards make me laugh.
  • I don't see why... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by itsdapead (734413) on Monday February 12, 2007 @09:15PM (#17991872)
    ...Apple couldn't collaborate with VMWare or Parallels to add some sort of hook to their Mac products that would allow OSX to verify that it was running on a Mac.

    However, whatever they say about wanting to virtualize OS X, at the moment, Parallels and VMWare are initially pitching their Mac products at people who need to run Windows applications on a Mac. Those people are never going to want to virtualise OS X. Wait for the equivalents of VMWare Server and VMWare Workstation - plus graphics acceleration (which both VMWare and Parallels promise Real Soon Now and which OSX will proably need).

    Actually, a more Apple-y thing to happen would be for simple-to-use virtualization to crop up in a future version of OS X. "Click here to create a sandbox for your kids".

  • by toby (759) * on Monday February 12, 2007 @09:52PM (#17992220) Homepage Journal

    'We're very interested in running Mac OS X in a virtual machine because it opens up a ton of interesting use cases, but until Apple changes its licensing policy, we prefer to not speculate about running Mac OS X in a virtualized environment,'

    Means: "we have it running in the lab."

  • by Enrique1218 (603187) on Monday February 12, 2007 @10:02PM (#17992308) Journal
    I guess Apple subsidizes the development of Mac OSX with the hardware sales (price premium?). Now if Apple were to let OSX to be distributed independent of the hardware, the software would have to be sold at a higher price. Moreover, Apple may have to protect against piracy with the much loathe activation schemes that Microsoft currently employs. Be careful what you wish for? Besides I don't believe that OSX has enough mindshare to get many more users to make that model work. OSX link to Apple hardware is not only thing holding back the mass exodus from Wndows.
  • Already Done (Score:5, Informative)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @05:59AM (#17995294) Homepage Journal
    VMWare and Parallels may not be willing to let users run OS X in their virtual machines, but there are others that do. For example, Mac-on-Linux [sourceforge.net], QEMU [bellard.free.fr], and PearPC [sourceforge.net]. All these are open-source, too.
    • Re:Already Done (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @10:46AM (#17997700)

      Notice anything about those solutions? They are not aimed at the consumer market, are not commercial enterprises, and are very limited in their ability. Creating software that can only be used legally in a weird edge case is one thing. Profiting by commercially marketing software that can only be used legally in an edge case is called "contributory copyright infringement." Now I can see the use case for OS X used legally in a VM (if you have Apple hardware and want to run OS X in a VM on top of some other OS, or if you live in a country with copyright laws that are different than the US). I can see arguments that contributory copyright infringement laws are a bad thing, and many of our other copyright laws are also negative for society. In this particular case, however, I do see the point of view from Apple. The market is dominated by a monopoly. Apple's best product would directly compete with that monopoly. Even if it is greatly superior, both recent history and the economics of monopolies show they will lose in that market if they try to compete. The classic strategy for competing against a monopoly is to build a separate vertical chain of supply the monopoly cannot undermine (hardware under your OS and apps on top of it). This is exactly what Apple has done.

      Lots of people on Slashdot like to think Apple could abandon the tie between their OS and hardware and everyone would benefit. Those people mostly think that, not because they objectively looked at the market and understood it, but because they want it to be true because it would benefit them directly. It is not true. Unless MS's monopoly is broken up or ousted by tertiary market intrusions, Apple must maintain their tie in to survive. If EULAs are rendered null and void, Apple will stop selling their OS separately at all and probably start selling slightly more expensive boxes with a OS tied to a hardware signature and either sell upgrade versions (which suck) or provide free upgrades for some period of time, like 5 years. It is simply the reality of the market

      For anyone out there who want Apple to stop tying their products, simply fixing the market will likely cause that to happen. Break MS into at least two competing companies, each with full rights to Windows, and in two or three years Apple will be forced to unbundle by the now competitive market and they will be able to do so without being killed. Problems like these are best solved at a higher level, rather than micro-managed.

  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @07:09AM (#17995634) Homepage
    On PPC MacOnLinux *already* runs OS X as a guest OS with no problems at all, and as far as I know Apple has never hassled them about it - probably because other than Apple sources of PPC machines are few and far between and it didn't represent a significant source of loss.

    If you have an old PPC powerbook around I highly recommend it.
  • Future? (Score:3, Informative)

    by wolenczak (517857) <pacoNO@SPAMcotera.org> on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @10:04AM (#17997068) Homepage
    I already do, on VMWare workstation / openSUSE 10.2
  • It won't happen (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kazymyr (190114) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:00AM (#17997926) Journal
    At least not while Jobs is still with Apple. Everyone seems to think these days that Apple is the company that sells OSX. Well, they're not. They're the company that sells Apple-branded computers, which incidentally run OSX. Their business plan includes selling hardware, with software added as an extra benefit - contrast with Microsoft which are in the business of selling software. Virtualization would cut into their hardware sales, so they won't allow it.

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