In the primitive era of personal computing (any time before about 2004), one had to commit entirely to one of three platforms or operating systems: Mac, Windows, or Linux. Sharing documents created on one platform with a colleague on another platform was tricky at best. What could be shared was electronic information (emails or websites) or un-editable PDF files, all of which made collaboration difficult and pretty much locked any office, nonprofit, or even family onto one track.
Now with cloud computing and mobile devices and programs that create ‘virtual machines’ of one kind of operating system working within another (think: picture-in-picture feature on a television), individuals can pick their favorite hardware and OS, and be confident that they can collaborate with their less enlightened colleagues. We’d like to introduce the latest developments in virtualization and present a brief series on a few ways to set up many computers on one device.
The technology is usually referred to as “virtualization”: a computer offers some of its memory, screen, and connectivity to a different operating system that runs UNIX systems (for developers and high-security needs) meant no one worried about virtualization through the 1980s and 1990s. It made a comeback expressly in the personal computer market after Apple released OS X (OS Ten) in 2002, which brought the Mac to millions more people who still needed access to Microsoft Word and Excel.. In the early days (the 1960s and 70s), virtualization was to ensure a programmer could develop a program that would run on any hardware. But the overwhelming bifurcation of the computing market into Microsoft DOS/Windows (for business and personal use) and
Nowadays, Apple’s market share is huge, but mostly in mobile and laptop devices, and many who buy Macs still want or need access to applications unique to the Windows environment. Virtualization software, though its packaging rarely uses the name anymore, offers the opportunity to have a Mac and a Windows PC − and even a Linux box for the particularly savvy user − at a fraction of the cost of owning two (or three) machines.
Here is an excellent introduction on what virtualization can do on your machine and three or four ways to accomplish the task (as well as some of the disadvantages of each package):
The link to the website noted in the MacMost video is here.
What makes the latest developments particularly exciting for nonprofits and small businesses is that some packages are now taking on mobile devices as well, offering access to Windows apps on an Apple iOS or Android tablet or phone. Therefore, the nonprofit or small business need not be tied to one platform for every device, but allow its staff to use their own preferred phones or tablets and still give them access to the Microsoft Office documents on the desktops back at the office. Investment in the software is minimal compared to having to align all the desktop, laptop, and mobile electronics.
Next week we’ll look at Parallels and VMWare, the two frontrunners in the commercial market, and we’ll then devote time to the latest efforts to get MS Office functionality even on an Apple iPad. We hope to have you reading and sharing those stories over the next couple of weeks!