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January 11, 2007

Macworld: Is that competition we're seeing?

Posted by Mark Watanabe at 4:01 PM

More from Glenn Fleishman, reporting from Macworld:

SAN FRANCISCO -- A very strange phenomenon is occurring here at Macworld Expo: competition. In many, many categories, multiple companies are presenting offerings in direct competition, vying for business, and explaining how their particular features are superior to products offered by other companies. \

While this is ordinary for most established markets (computer industry and otherwise), Mac users have generally faced underchoice because of some dominant companies that remained as smaller firms disappeared.

Three firms presented ways for Intel Mac owners to run Windows programs or Intel operating systems. I've written already about Parallels, which has a desktop product that's been produced in several versions since its introduction last year, and improves on what seems like a daily basis.

Its marketing director explained that Parallel's programmers are in Moscow and, apparently, never sleep. He asked the programmers for a feature a few weeks ago -- the ability to drag a document from the Mac desktop into a Windows program and have it open -- and the developer lead said it would take forever to write, it was impossible, and so on. Ten minutes later, the programmer calls back to say that feature would appear shortly. (It's in a current public test version.)

The established firm VMware was presenting its Fusion for Mac here, another virtual machine application similar to Parallels.
And a third company, CodeWeavers showed off the first release of CrossOver Mac.

CodeWeavers' program is unique, allowing individual Windows programs to run within the Mac environment; it's based on WINE, a reverse-engineered open-source project that avoids the need for an installed version of Windows.

A product manager demonstrated launching Microsoft's Visio as a separate program. The company has a list of programs that it knows works in CrossOver and for which it provides limited tech support in installation and troubleshooting. He said that many other packages also work, but they don't directly offer help with.

This unique condition appears to be driving all three firms to add new features and differentiate their offering. It's also apparently keeping prices low. Crossover is $60 and doesn't require an operating system. Parallels is $80, and needs some OS, whether DOS, Linux, Solaris, or Windows. VMware hasn't set its price yet.

Some individuals were also walking around gleefully showing Mac OS 8 and 9 operating on Intel Mac laptops. Apple said that it wouldn't support the so-called Classic environment beyond the PowerPC Macs shipped for the past decade, and thus a vacuum was formed and filled. The open-source project requires a few bits and pieces to get to work, but it's a fascinating option for ancient software that you just need to run a little longer. It's free.

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