The new program promises to ease the frustration of many Mac users who find that new programs such as Web browsers are often being released for Windows systems anywhere from weeks to months ahead of Mac OS-based programs.
Other emulator programs such as SoftWindows 95 from Insignia already exist for the Macintosh, and Mac users have also long been able to buy systems with a separate card that uses an Intel-compatible processor to run Windows programs.
To date, though, both methods of running Windows software have been relatively expensive. Connectix is offering its product for about half the price of Insignia's software while claiming better compatibility with Windows programs.
Connectix says its product, called Virtual PC, will be the first that supports all the hardware functions of a standard MMX Pentium-based PC. It does this by making a PowerPC-based computer pretend to be a PC, instead of making the Mac OS pretend like it is Windows 95 or DOS. The Windows 95 or Windows 3.11 operating system itself is actually installed on the Mac and third-party programs are actually running in Windows, unlike other emulators.
The software will offer Sound Blaster Pro support, Ethernet networking, and peripheral support for CD-ROM drives, modems, and printers. The software also allows for sharing files between the Mac and Windows environments as both operating systems run concurrently.
Connectix says that because the software emulates PC hardware, it will also let Macs to run Windows NT, Windows 3.1, OpenStep, and OS/2 operating system software.
While having access to a wider array of software will be a boon to Mac users, they will need to have relatively powerful systems to run the software to see acceptable levels of performance. This is due to the fact that the Virtual PC has to continuously act as an interpreter between Windows operating system and the Mac hardware.
Connectix says that the minimum system requirements for Virtual PC Windows 95 version, which comes with Windows 95, are a 180-MHz PowerPC 603e or any speed PowerPC 604 and 604e. The software also requires at least 24MB of memory; 32MB is recommended.
The company is also selling a Windows 3.11/DOS version of Virtual PC, which requires at least a 100-MHz PowerPC or better and 24MB of memory. Both versions require System 7.5.5 and will support the upcoming System 8.0 version of the Mac OS.
Virtual PC will have a street price of between $149 to $169 and is slated to ship in the United States on Monday, according to Connectix.