The Macintosh XP Challenge

With a prize of over $12,000 tempting would be hackers, there is a race underway to install Windows XP on Intel based Macs.  Some do it for fun, others do it for the prize money, and some do it just because they want to run Windows on their Mac.  Whatever the motivation, the flurry of chatter on the subject has turned into a full fledged storm since Apple released its first Intel based iMac in January.

According to this post from onmac.net, we may finally have a winner.  The hardware hacker using the handle narf2006 claims to have found a solution.  He offers a slide show of photos as proof of his success.

Some sites are reporting that narf2006 is a respected member of the movement, but others are more skeptical and claim this is yet another fraud.  Either way, check out this thread and decide for yourself.

According to the thread, the claim was made on a forum account created in February.  The post appears to be only the second post issued by the user.  For the moment I will remain skeptical, but I will hope for the best.  Before narf2006 can collect the prize money, he must document his installation procedure and it must be reproduced by others.  If the procedure is indeed functional, we can expect to see a great deal more press on this users.  If the post is a sham, narf2006 will simply slip back into obscurity as we wait for someone else claim the prize money.

In either case, all the Mac community really wants is to run Windows on their Mac hardware.  It was previously believed that this would happen sometime before the end of the year when Microsoft releases the much anticipated Windows Vista.  But in news released late last week, it seems that the initial release of Vista is no longer slated to support the necessary EFI integration that would be necessary for it to run on Apple hardware.

Will Windows soon run on Apple’s new hardware?  Despite the constant debate online, no one knows for sure.  Some secretly suspect that Apple is working on a Windows emulation layer for OS X.  It is conceivable that Windows support could be added to the Mac OS in much the same way that OS 9 “Classic” support was built-in to OS X.

Others speculate that a product like VirtualPC might be a better solution.  VirtualPC’s poor performance in the past has been because of its need to emulate and X86 processor using a PowerPC based chip.  During this emulation, massive amounts of clock cycles are lost and poor performance is the result.  Now that Mac software runs natively on Intel hardware, the need for that emulation has passed and performance should no longer be an issue.  In theory, VirtualPC running on an Intel based Mac should be able to run Windows every bit as fast as a traditional PC.  There is, of course, one small issue.  Last I heard, Microsoft (the maker of VirtualPC) was not sure  it would update the software to run on Intel based Macs.

For now, all we can do is monitor the chatter on the web and wait for a solution.  Will narf2006 enter the record books as the first users to install Windows on a Mac?  Will Apple add its own emulation layer to OS X?  Will Microsoft add EFI support to Vista effectively paving the way to run Windows on Mac hardware?  Will VirtualPC allow us to run Windows apps at full speed on our Macs?  For right now, all we have are questions.


Steve

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