Irrelevant Hacks

Irrelevant musings of a hack blogger

Apple and ARM – Part 3

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Where does the ARM transition put Apple and others regarding virtualization and Windows? Well, the truth is, it doesn’t look good for anyone who NEEDs to use Windows. Apple’s Rosetta 2 software is flexible, but it’s unable to translate all the code that would be needed to run x86 copies of VMware or VirtualBox, and consequently, virtualize an x86 environment (be it 32 or 64 bit). Apple also seems to be including their own virtualization software in MacOS 16 “Big Sur”, as shown when they were running a Debian based VM on it.

This being said, there’s a chance that Microsoft can bring back its Virtual PC software with x86 emulation. Dosbox does have an ARM port, so there’s still a possibility to run older PC software/games. Looking at VMWare, they do have an ESXi version for ARM, so we might see VMWare Fusion for ARM (so, for people in infosec, running an ARM based VM of Kali should be possible, as there is a version for the Raspberry Pi). However, there is a version of Windows 10 running on the Surface Pro X, which is an ARM platform. Does that mean a return of Bootcamp or Virtualization of Windows in the future?

The reality is, we don’t know. Just because Microsoft has a copy of Windows running on their own custom ARM hardware, doesn’t mean they’ll get it to run smoothly on Apple’s hardware. So, personally, I think Bootcamp is dead when Apple’s ARM based computers come out. As for virtualizing Windows 10 ARM on these new Macs, there’s a chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tries to launch a competition to do this soon after the first ARM Macs arrive on the market (like what was done before Bootcamp became a reality). However, the possibility will depend on licensing agreements between Apple and Microsoft regarding revealing hardware and software characteristics that would allow for a VM of Windows 10 ARM to run on an ARM Mac. Since both companies are working on their own ARM processors, the competition between them might limit or block this.

So where does that put people that will still need to run Windows, but also require a Mac? Simple, over the next two years, buy whatever Intel based Mac will suit your needs. When Apple releases an ARM based model, look for refurbished Intel models. Apple is planning this migration over two years to complete, with more consumer oriented models probably being the first to move to ARM. So I wouldn’t worry about the iMac Pro, the Mac Pro, or the MacBook Pro just yet. So, Mac Mini, iMac and MacBook Air computers may be the first ones to move to ARM, but when and what order we don’t know. But the current iMac and Mac Mini are currently pretty long in the tooth… After Apple completes the Migration to ARM and you still need to use an x86 Windows machine? It might be best to invest in a cheap laptop running Windows as a second computer.

So, last part tomorrow. Where does this leave consumers, and stuff like games (such as Steam)?

The series so far:
Part 1

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