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Microsoft makes Windows-on-Arm in VMs on Macs official – with Parallels for starters

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Microsoft has started to officially support Windows 11 on Arm running as a virtual machine on Macs powered by Apple’s own M1 and M2 CPUs.

Windows-on-Arm has been available for download for years, and it’s been possible to run it as a VM on Macs: desktop hypervisor vendor Parallels has promoted it since 2021.

But Microsoft never authorized those VMs, so they were unsupported, and users could not therefore license Windows 11 for such uses. Naughty, naughty users.

That arrangement changed on Thursday when Microsoft published a page stating “Parallels Desktop version 18 is an authorized solution for running Arm versions of Windows 11 Pro and Windows 11 Enterprise in a virtual environment on its platform on Apple M1 and M2 computers.”

Microsoft’s heart doesn’t really seem to be in it though – an assertion The Register makes because the page we’ve linked to above opens by stating “Windows 11 runs best on a PC designed for Windows” and then suggests streaming a Windows 365 cloud PC to a Mac as the first option for running the OS on Apple’s hardware.

The article also points out that Arm-flavored Windows is inferior in many regards – it might even be called underArm-flavored – as it can’t be relied on by developers who need DirectX 12 or OpenGL3.3 or greater, or want to use the Linux and/or Android subsystems for Windows.

That warning hasn’t curbed the enthusiasm of desktop hypervisor vendors. Parallels has welcomed the news and suggested it will be appreciated by folks like “a field engineer that prefers a Mac [to] access a Windows-based application such as Matlab or VTScada.”

VMware has also weighed in with news that it will “move full-speed ahead in offering world-class support for Windows on Mac computers with Apple silicon.”

Virtzilla had previously enabled running Windows 11 for Arm in the Fusion desktop hypervisor it offers for Macs and ported into a native version for Apple’s silicon.

VMware’s product line manager for desktop hypervisors, Michael Roy, also said his team plans to “leapfrog the competition” with Microsoft’s help.

Microsoft hasn’t said why it decided to start supporting Windows-on-Arm VMs on Apple silicon, but Parallels’ statement in support of the move offers a hint in the form of advice that Microsoft’s enterprise licenses cover use of the OS in a VM. That suggests Microsoft has figured out it can turn a buck with this, so might as well make it official. ®

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