Why it would be easy for Apple to develop the mythic Red Box.

While reading my regular list of news sites this morning I ran across an article detailing the improbability of Apple releasing a Red Box. To those who are unfamiliar, this is a long-rumored compatibility environment in which Windows applications would run alongside Mac programs, much as Blue Box ran Classic Mac applications within the new MacOS X.

As I gave this some thought, I found that a red box environment could be built out of existing technologies with surprisingly little effort.

Consider MetaVNC (http://metavnc.sf.net/) and Citrix Metaframe (http://www.citrix.com) as display components, which already allow one to project individual Windows applications onto the desktop of another computer, even running another operating system.

Consider also VMware and Parallels Workstation, virtual machine software that easily allows Windows to run alongside foreign operating systems.

And finally, consider the inherent flexibility, configurability and scriptability of Windows XP. Registry settings and policies can be set so that the Windows XP home directory is the same folder as the Macintosh home directory (mounting it as a network share on login), and many other settings can be configured to hide aspects of Windows that would otherwise indicate that it’s running as an independent virtual computer system. As one example, C:\ wouldn’t have to be viewable by the user – all the user’s Windows programs would be on the Mac hard drive, available to the Windows environment through another network share. The user would only see his home directory and any other directories fit to complete the “Mac experience” through a Windows application’s open/save dialog boxes. 

What you’d then have is a set of technologies that, like Classic, allow a licensed copy of Windows, either bundled or provided by the user, and then modified by an Apple installer to load in the background, display applications on the Mac desktop alongside Macintosh applications, and have access to many of the same filesystems and resources that native Mac programs have.

This is all easily accomplished with existing tools. I do hope Apple gets on board with it someday. Sooner than later!

Also, I know Apple is reticent to implement ideas other people have put forward. This is presumptuous of me, but I don’t want to see legal concerns get in the way of a good idea. Apple, if you do get any ideas out of this I hereby grant all my rights to this idea over to you and reserve no legal recourse for myself to take a profit from any products you implement from it.

One response to “Why it would be easy for Apple to develop the mythic Red Box.”

  1. […] As related in a previous blog entry, another rumored technology would be called “Red Box”, a technology which would enable Mac users to run Windows applications alongside their Mac ones. Apple has, to date, not released this technology but I speculated on a means of creating it which would be eminently doable, and have about the same footprint as Blue Box did when running OS 9 apps. […]