Virtualization Vendor Warns Mac Users About Running Vista

Parallels is concerned with wording in the EULA that makes it impossible, according to the company, for people to know what they can, or can't, do with Vista running on a Mac. "We don't know what the hell it means, and no one else knows what it means," Benjamin Rudolph, a spokesman for the company, says of the licensing agreement.

The portion of the EULA bothering Parallels has to do with the use of Vista with virtualization technologies. It's already known that Microsoft only wants the higher-priced editions of the operating system -- Business and Ultimate -- to run on virtual machine software. But what the EULA doesn't make clear is what you can do with Vista once it's running on a Mac, Linux, or some other OS.

"You may use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed device," the EULA says, as reprinted by Parallels. "If you do so, you may not play or access content or use applications protected by any Microsoft digital, information, or enterprise rights management technology or other Microsoft rights management services or use BitLocker." BitLocker is a data protection feature integrated into Vista.

Microsoft on Thursday refused to discuss the EULA. "Unfortunately we do not have any information to provide you concerning this issue," a company spokesman said in an e-mail.

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Parallels said it has also tried unsuccessfully to get an answer from Microsoft. As a result, Parallels is in a quandary, since it doesn't know what to tell its customers. "We're waiting on the official statement from Microsoft to clarify their position," Rudolph says.

People using Vista on a Mac or other OS today can't be certain they won't hear from Microsoft's legal department in the future, Rudolph says. While Parallels wants people to use its software, it doesn't want people to break licensing agreements. "We don't want our users to have a difficult life when it comes to using Vista."

Microsoft would probably prefer that people run Vista alone on a PC and not through virtualization software on a Mac or Linux box. At the same time, the company has been trying to present an image that it supports interoperability. In November, Microsoft announced an interoperability alliance with software and hardware vendors and signed a deal with Novell to jointly develop virtualization software for Windows and SuSE Linux, which Novell distributes.

As to the latest controversy, Parallels executives believe Microsoft is missing out on a chance to get Vista in front of people who would normally use another platform.

"It doesn't help to get Vista in the hands of nontraditional Windows users if there's odd licensing involved," Rudolph says. "It might make people think twice."