You know things have changed when one of the fastest ways to run Windows is to run it using Parallels Desktop on an M1 Mac and Microsoft brings in Apple Silicon support for its own Remote Desktop application.

The fastest Windows PC? Get a Mac

Parallels now offers native Apple Silicon support in Parallels Desktop 16. As anticipated, this extends to various ARM-based Linux installations (Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, and Kali) and also to Windows 10 on ARM Insider Preview.

It seems to work well.

Not only does it deliver 30% better performance than you get running Windows 10 VM on an Intel Mac, it also uses much less energy and will run most Windows apps like native Mac apps, though some 64-bit applications may not run as well as you expect.

In other words, Windows in VM on an M1 Mac now runs at least as well, and often bette,r than Windows runs on many commercially available Windows PCs. One beta tester cited in a Parallels statement called it the “fastest version of Windows” they’d ever used.

The catch is you must run a beta version of the operating system, which Microsoft doesn’t offer to consumers yet. This may be good enough for occasional tasks, but it’s not sufficiently robust for all your enterprise’s work. All the same, I can’t help but see this as a stealthy attempt at a global beta test of running ARM-based Windows on Macs. And the results, at least on Parallels figures, seem pretty good so far.

Which raises a question.

Is this a stealth beta test?

It feels possible. Microsoft and Apple figured out how to do business better together years ago. It was Microsoft’s $150 million Apple investment when Steve Jobs returned to the company he founded that helped fund the iMac turnaround story.

“Next I want to talk about meaningful partners,” said Jobs announcing the move. “Relationships that are destructive don’t help anybody,” he said, introducing Microsoft CEO Bill Gates at Macworld Boston in 1997.

“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose,” he added, saying, “We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job.”

The rest is history. Watch it again, here:

The enterprise platform

Today, recent data claims Macs account for 23% of PCs sold into U.S. enterprise, while Mac sales in Q1 increased 111.5% (IDC).

Microsoft sees Apple as a viable platform for its software and services. It seems plausible to expect it to extend Windows to ARM to the Mac on an official basis.

The company continues to invest in M1 support for all its Mac apps, including the crown jewel of Office 365 and even Remote Desktop, which lets you access your Windows PC from your M1 Mac remotely. (This may not be the only way in which Microsoft hopes to run Windows remotely).

Why then would it avoid introducing Windows for ARM to the platform? We’ve always known M-powered Macs are capable of running Windows for ARM as virtual machines.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s vice president for software engineering, admitted as much when he said:

“We have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their ARM version of Windows, which in turn of course supports x86 user mode applications. But that’s a decision Microsoft has to make, to bring to license that technology for users to run on these Macs.”

In the context of Azure support at Jamf’s JNUC conference, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of the Enterprise Client & Mobility, Brad Anderson, said his company wants to make the Mac a “more complete enterprise device.”

Up next

What would make it more complete than an official release of Windows for ARM?

With Macs running Apple’s next M-series chip expected as soon as next week, no wonder Intel is playing defense. Pretty soon, the best way to run Windows may well be to run it using Parallels Desktop on an M1X Mac.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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