Suppose your company has graphic artists on staff who need to use Macs for creative purposes, but your office email system is a Windows product. Or your CEO is a Macophile, but the travel expense application is a Windows product.
What's a company to do?
Some companies actually give each worker two computers. Others force folks to share a common PC, like peasants working with a communal baking oven. This practice is expensive—consider the time wasted on waiting—and it's an employee demoralizer.
A better option is virtualization—emulating one type of hardware on another. A Mac user with a virtual PC can spend most of his time in the programs that are most familiar and useful to him, but also access the PC software he needs occasionally. Virtualization also gives you more "computers" for the money because the two machines—one physical and one emulated—can share peripherals such as memory, CD-ROM drives, and so on.
Don't Get Down, Get Virtual PC
Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac (we'll call it "Virtual PC" for short) is the one and only virtualization product for the Apple architecture. Virtual PC creates a virtual Intel-based architecture on your Mac so that you can use it to install Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, or any other fun operating system you want to try.
What's it take? Of course, you'll need hardware that meets Virtual PC's basic requirements. That's a long list to repeat in this article, so let me just state that I'm doing this installation on my iBook 1.2 GHz G4 with 768MB of RAM and a Tiger's roar. As when dealing with any manufacturer's minimum requirements, I suggest you over-provision when setting up your environment. A G3 could work with enough RAM installed, but eventually you'll want the extra processor power. And, yes, Virtual PC will support the G5, for those of you fortunate enough to have one.
In addition to the hardware requirements, you must have a legal copy of whatever operating system and applications you intend to run on your virtual machine. Happily, several versions of Virtual PC come with Windows 2000, Windows XP Home, or Windows XP Professional at a special bundled price. (Why use software illegally when the bundled price makes honesty easy?) However, if your company has an enterprise agreement for XP that makes the bundle costly, you can install Windows without using bundled XP. The Virtual machine doesn't need "special" versions of an operating system to run that operating system.
Now, let's be honest regarding games. Emulated hardware can't perform as efficiently as a real PC running Windows XP. If you're planning to install DOOM 3 on a Mac running Virtual PC, you may be in for disappointing performance. But other Windows apps that require less processor power should run fine on your Virtual PC. The Mactopia site provides more information on Virtual PC, its requirements, and what types of applications will run on your new emulated Windows system.
Enough talk—let's install. Pop that bad boy CD in the drive now!