Why are Windows products moving to Apple's Mac OS?

Although you can run Windows applications on Apple's Leopard anyway, many vendors at Macworld are debuting Mac OS editions of products originally designed for Windows.

This, in spite of the vaunted Windows/Mac cross-platform capabilities of Apple's new Leopard operating system. And regardless of Mac fans' claims of relative security versus Windows, some of the new products for Mac OS are geared toward virus protection and Web filtering.

Some vendors well known in the Windows space, ranging from security giant McAfee to network attached storage (NAS) specialist NetGear, are exhibiting at Macworld this year for the first time ever.

At the same time, Blue Coat Systems is releasing the beta edition of K9 Web Protection, a Mac OS edition of its security-oriented Web filtering software for Windows-based home PCs. Blue Coat also produces enterprise Web filtering software for government agencies and large businesses.

Meanwhile, label and business card printing maven Avery is using this year's Macworld as the launchpad for a Mac version of DesignPro, constituting that company's first stand-alone software for Mac OS 24 years after the first Macintosh was introduced.

That great app you've loved for Windows for years, now for Mac OS!

Vendors today have been porting Windows products to Mac OS for many years on end, and the same phenomenon has also happened in reverse -- particularly back in the 1990s, when design divisions within large businesses were adopting Windows in droves.

But migration from Windows to Mac OS does seem particularly evident this year, particularly with big names showing up at Macworld for the very first time. Some analysts agree that the trend is especially interesting at a time when running Windows applications on Apple hardware has probably never been easier.

If you want to run a Windows app on one of the new MacBook Air laptops, or any other Apple hardware outfitted with the latest edition of Mac OS, all you have to do is boot up into Windows.

Alternatively, if you're interested in running the same apps directly within OS, you can use an emulation program such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion, or a package such as Codeweavers' Crossover for Mac.

Crossover is a commercialized version of Wine, an open source software package designed to let applications run faster by re-implementing the Win32 kernel inside Mac OS, thereby allowing Windows apps to operate in native mode.

On the other hand, you can avoid the aggravation of either booting into Windows or loading Crossover or an emulation package, by running Mac versions of your accustomed Windows apps directly inside Mac OS.

At the same time, Apple is also making it easier with its new OS for Windows developers to create Mac OS versions of their products, according to Jeff Gamet, an analyst with The Mac Observer.

For one thing, Apple has now stepped to the Intel processor, an architecture that Windows developers already know quite well, Gamet told BetaNews.

For another thing, Leopard comes with more than 100 tools for Mac OS X development, free of charge, he said.

"This is a giveaway, and there's no surprise add-on cost. Everything you need for developing for OS X is included with the computer," according to the analyst.

With rising market shares come unwanted guests

Rising market shares for Mac hardware are also spurring software vendors on, Gamet said.

Indeed, Apple astounded the computer industry last fall by jumping to an 8.1% market share of the US PC shipments in the Gartner Group's industry study for the third quarter of 2007.

According to Gartner's fourth quarter numbers, just released in preliminary form yesterday, Apple's dropped back to 6.1% at the end of last year. But that's still a far cry better than Apple's results in the 3% range just a few years ago.

And Apple is still in fourth place in the US market, according to Gartner, behind Dell at 31.1%, Hewlett-Packard at 26.1%, and Acer at 9.0%.

Long-time Mac fans gain obvious benefits from obtaining new hardware and software applications for Mac OS, said Philip Leigh, a senior analyst with Inside Digital Media, Inc.

Leigh also told BetaNews that he thinks Apple was smart to offer a solid state drive (SSD) for the new Leopard-based MacBook Air laptop announced at Macworld. Beyond allowing devices to be smaller, SSDs are also more rugged than hard disk drives and better able to withstand the "shake, rattle, and roll" of ongoing use, Leigh contended.

The original iPods came with hard drives, but Apple has since replaced those hard drives with flash memory, the analyst pointed out.

So why are security vendors such as McAfee and Blue Coat flocking to Macworld for the first time ever?

Mac fans have long claimed security advantages for their favorite platform versus Windows, citing reasons ranging from a much smaller installed base to the use of a Unix kernel which gives high levels of protection against viruses.

"Some people don't like Windows because it has so many viruses," Leigh noted.

But as the Mac OS expands in usage, is it now becoming a wider target for security exploits?

In announcing the its own Macworld debut, McAfee officials pointed out the recent discovery of the first Macintosh-based "rogue cleaning tool" exploit.

Known as MacSweeper, the tool reportedly warns the Mac user that something is wrong , and then asks the user to pay for a clean-up.

Other Mac-based exploits uncovered over the past year have included a rogue application for the iPhone and a Trojan horse masquerading as a video codec.

McAfee actually launched its first antivirus software for Mac OS back in 2006, but its efforts in the Mac space have been met by strong resistance from some users who say these products aren't necessary.

The new Mac version of K9 Web Protection, now entering beta is designed to filter out spyware and phishing exploits along with content that might be inappropriate for children.

Above and beyond this week's MacWorld show, Lotus Software -- an entity that supported Mac OS desktops prior to its acquisition by IBM in 1995 -- is now rumored to be planning announcements of a Mac-compatible version of its Symphony office suite, as well as iPod and iPod Touch versions of Lotus Notes, for its own Lotusphere show next week.

An IBM spokesperson was initially unavailable for comment.

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