Yesterday, I installed Windows XP on two Intel Macs using Apple’s Boot Camp. Today, I used the Beta release of Parallels Workstation to install Windows XP and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 on an Intel iMac.
Boot Camp makes installing Windows XP on a Mac as simple as can be imagined. (If installing an OS could ever really be called simple.) Parallels Workstation is definitely more techie-oriented: a novice would quickly give up, I think. But it does work. Some key shortcomings of the Parallels solution:
1) No sound (yet).
2) Full-screen mode doesn’t work (yet).
3) No support for USB (yet).
4) Networking support is more primitive – it looks like you can use Ethernet or Wireless, but not both.
5) No support for CD or DVD burning
6) No mounting of actual volumes – only drive images are supported.
7) Graphics performance is less than when booted directly into WinXP.
Several of these limitations are supposed to be addressed before the final (non-beta) release.
But the advantages are nice, too:
1) No need to reboot just to run one Windows app.
2) Support for Windows 3.1 through Windows 2003 Server.
3) Support for multiple flavors of Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, etc.
4) The drive image for the virtual machine can be anywhere – on an existing partition or on a FireWire or USB drive. The Boot Camp solution can only boot Windows XP from a partition on the primary internal drive.
An appealing option would be a way to use the same Windows XP partition to either boot directly into XP, or to boot a VM. This way you could get top performance when you needed it, or maximum convienence when in OS X. You can do that now by using both Boot Camp and Parallels, but you have to maintain two seperate Windows installations: one on an actual drive partition, and one in a virtual drive image. Double the disk space and double the work!
One the other hand, since the VM and the actual hardware look like two different pieces of hardware to Windows, it might be problematic to use the same OS image for both modes. Other operating systems might not have these issues, though.
But these are exciting and interesting times to work with Macs – new possibilities seem to appear every day.