Fair warning, if you are what some would call a ‘fan boy’, be it with Microsoft or Apple, this article is going to stretch your belief system. The reality is the engineers in Cupertino are pretty good. That does not mean the engineers in Redmond are idiots. Each camp has its design goals and limitations. The good news for us as users is hardware has become powerful enough we get to use the best of both worlds. The most common virtualization products for OSX is either VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop.
For those of us who are stuck by mandate to use Windows don’t have to have Mac envy. There is the lesser known VirtualBox from Oracle. This option has a few tricks up its sleeve that you cannot find elsewhere. First off, it is an Open Source product, which means free – as in no cost. It also runs on Linux, Windows, Mac and Solaris for the base (native) platforms.
It is pretty flexible with the Guest Operating Systems as well. For those needing Microsoft support, it goes back to DOS (and the Graphic Shell for DOS – Windows 3.x or its archaic alternatives). It also supports most Linux offerings. While Oracle doesn’t come right out and say so, it also allows Windows users to run OSX.
It’s pretty easy to see why Oracle does not mention this. Apple takes a very dim view of running OSX on hardware other than Macintosh.
It is beyond the scope of this entry to say Parallels is a better choice than VMware Fusion or that VirtualBox rocks. The reason for this is no single group has a lock on brillant software engineers. Furthermore, your particular needs may be widely different than someone else’s.
While VMware and Parallels are locked in a wrestling match, choosing which is best changes about as often as who is on top in a wrestling match. It is relatively safe to say for the moment both offer superior performance to VirtualBox. However open source products beyond having the advantage of being no cost, tend to roll out with new features and performance enhancements at a faster rate than commercial software.
Real Life Application
While there are more variables to consider then there are types of shoes and styles let’s look at one possibility for Macintosh users. Speech recognition. Yes, there is a commercial application to install on OSX. The name of the product is not being mentioned here because you could not pay me to use it. And yet, the Windows offering from the same firm is undisputed as king of the hill.
Let’s say you wish to dabble in speech recognition. Further, you don’t want to spend any money. Assuming you have a reasonably powerful Macintosh, there is a solution. First, install Virtual Box. Next install a pre release copy of Windows 8. Go to the control panel of Windows and select Ease of Access. Among the next choices will be Speech Recognition. Run through the setup, which is a combination of training you how to use it as well as your training the speech engine what you sound like.
Don’t expect magic at first since any speech engine handling whatever a user might say has to narrow down from an incredible amount of variables. It is by correcting mistakes using your voice that is learns. It takes effort.
If you are afraid of Win 8 and you have a copy of Win 7 the good news is it is the same engine. The downside is Windows 7 is considerably fatter (needs more resources) than Win 8. As of the time of this entry, Win 8 with one not too busy browser window open, WordPad and Speech running uses just under 1 GB of RAM. Win 8 can also be assisted by giving it access to a few GB from a USB memory stick using ReadyBoost.
Again, using it is not the same experience as Dragon Naturally Speaking. And it doesn’t need the considerably more horsepower and RAM. This is a serious consideration when you have to have some resources for running OSX, then VirturalBox, AND Windows 8 with Speech running. Certainly if you are using a Mini Mac.
In closing, while this entry is barely a hole in the ice, it should be big enough for you to safely dive into alternate worlds. This way with some limitations, you can safely learn the advantages ‘the other guys’ have, regardless of which side you are on. An additional advantage is more protection from the bad guys however that is a story worthy of its own entry.