Intel Patent Application Sheds Light on Virtualization

by , 5:15 PM EDT, June 22nd, 2006

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Thursday published the details of an application Intel has filed for "a method, apparatus and system for transparently unifying virtual machines." As Macsimum News pointed out in its exhaustive, two-part analysis of the application, this technology could enable Mac users to run Windows and Mac OS X side-by-side, rather than having to restart their computers to switch operating systems, as they currently must do with Boot Camp.

"The user may be presented with a unified desktop interface representing a composite and/or unified view of the VM host," the application states. "Via this unified desktop interface, the user may perform all necessary commands and/or receive output." The unified desktop interface would be invisible to the user, which, as Macsimum News' Neo pointed out, would allow non-techie computer owners the ability to take advantage of the technology without having to understand it.

Neo went on to explain: "For example, one use of virtualization in a home (and the associated advantage of running one or more independent VMs on a host) may be for each family member to be allocated a VM partition with their own customized environment, e.g., a gaming VM partition, a Personal Video Recorder ("PVR") appliance VM, an enterprise Information Technology ("IT") supplied VM for telecommuting, etc.

"Moreover, it is likely that each user may have several VMs, each possibly dedicated for a specific task such as a dedicated VM for internet browsing, one for gaming applications, etc. Some might be scheduled to run 24.times.7 (e.g. a personal video recorder ("PVR)), while others are launched and exited frequently. In this environment, the average home PC user may be overwhelmed by the task of understanding and/or managing the VM partitions (e.g., moving files, setting up access permissions, etc.)."

Apple has said that Boot Camp will be part of Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard," which is due for release by early 2007. However, the company has also said that Boot Camp is only Beta software, and its functionality -- along with its name -- may be different in Leopard. That has led to speculation that Leopard will enable virtualization along the lines of Parallels Desktop, which was recently released.

Interestingly, Apple's "Get a Mac" Web site makes no mention of Boot Camp on the page that explains how users can run Windows on an Intel Mac. It only discusses the ability to use Parallels to run Windows.