Benjamin Portman Blogs:
All my life I’ve been a devout PC user, and for many years I was an Apple-hater. I saw Apple products as overpriced toys for a niche group of obnoxious fan-boys who didn’t care to put in the time to actually understand computers. Windows has always been a superior platform for certain types of users – business users, 3D gamers, and techies to name a few. Since I’ve been a member of each of those user groups at various points in my life, I’ve naturally gravitated toward Windows PCs and away from Macs. Furthermore, the “ease of use” hype around Apple Mac products is exactly that: overblown hype.
Given my history, you can imagine my surprise to suddenly find myself happily typing this blog entry on a Macbook Pro. Recent developments at Apple and in the computing world in general have suddenly opened up the possibility of using Apple hardware for the most elite computing functions. First, in 2006 Apple transitioned from using their proprietary PowerPC processor family to Intel processors. This opened the door for Macs to run operating systems other than Mac OS X. Second, virtualization technology has matured significantly. There are now desktop virtualization products such as VMWare Fusion that offer a seamless, user-friendly integration of a Windows 7 virtual machine with a Mac OS X host. Third, Mac hardware today has arrived at the pinnacle of both elegance and durability. The 2011 Macbook Air is an undeniably beautiful machine and with its standard solid state hard drive (SSD) it is at far lower risk of disk failure.
VMWare Fusion for Mac allows lifetime Windows users who have eyed this beautiful Apple hardware in the past to “have their cake and eat it too”. With VMWare Fusion, I can set up any Mac to run both Mac OS X and Windows 7 at the same time. Swipe the touchpad with three fingers to the left and the screen swipes over with it and I’m suddenly in Windows 7 world. Swipe to the right and I’m back in Mac world. Connect a USB thumb drive or other USB device to the Mac and a pop-up prompt appears asking whether to connect this to the Mac side or the Windows side of things. When initially setting up the Windows 7 virtual machine I am given the choice of a “more seamless” or “more isolated” mode. In seamless mode every file I work with is easily accessible from both operating systems.
These developments have significantly expanded the possible uses of Mac hardware in business and technical applications. For example, Ntiva has clients who use 27” iMacs with 16GB of RAM to host 8GB virtual Windows 7 desktops as software development environments. They run Visual Studio and a variety of other resource-intensive Windows based software in these virtual machines. Because their environments are virtual machines, they are able to distribute a single master template “image” of the machine across six different iMacs with ease. They can also use the Mac host system for web browsing and other basic functions while keeping their software development encased in the virtual machine. Other Ntiva clients use similar configurations with Macbook Airs and Pros to connect to Windows domain networks.
Apple Mac hardware and software has evolved to become an ideal desktop virtual host that can be easily configured for a variety of advanced scenarios that were previously only possible on non-Mac, Windows- based desktops and laptops. These developments are a welcome departure from Apple’s historically restrictive and limiting nature.