FWB continues development of RealPC for OS X

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FWB Inc. continues on towards its development of a Mac OS X-native version of RealPC, its PC emulation software, despite some recent legal setbacks from Microsoft Corp. To find out more, MacCentral spoke with FWB vice president of sales and marketing Mark Prewitt.

In mid-May, FWB briefly stopped development of its forthcoming Mac OS X-native version of RealPC following the arrival of a cease and desist letter from Microsoft. "It was a trademark dispute," explained Prewitt.

Prewitt told MacCentral that following Microsoft's acquisition of the SoftWindows trademark, a brand name previously associated with the product, Microsoft requested that FWB remove any references to SoftWindows from its own RealPC product line. That briefly caused FWB to stop developing RealPC as references to SoftWindows had to be pulled from the actual code.

"Unfortunately, the same guys that do the development had to do the rebranding," said Prewitt. "We're all wearing different hats. We ended up ceasing development on it for about a week," he said.

Things are back on track, although FWB's timetable for RealPC's relaunch has changed. The company had hoped to release RealPC for OS X this month, but they now plan to launch a beta test program starting in July. Should everything go well, RealPC will be on retail store shelves later this summer, perhaps by August.

Prewitt told MacCentral that FWB Inc. sees a renewed market for PC emulation following Microsoft's acquisition of VirtualPC from Connectix Corp. this past February. In fact, FWB perceives RealPC as having strategic advantages over the competition.

"The RealPC products have been focused on offering a higher level of performance, to accomplish not only mundane tasks like word processing but also to do 2D and 3D graphics and games," said Prewitt.

Prewitt explained that RealPC's developers are incorporating the ability for RealPC to work directly with 3D graphics accelerators, now commonplace on Macs but long-ignored by VirtualPC. This will lend itself to further performance enhancement, perhaps allowing RealPC users to play Windows games under emulation at a reasonable speed.

Prewitt is reluctant to offer specific details on how high that performance level is or how broadly it will be supported on the Mac platform just yet. "It depends on how well our beta test goes," he said.

If all this sounds ambitious for the first release of a product that has been, up until now, limited on the Mac to an OS 9 version, Prewitt said that it's largely because they're already starting out with a Unix-based emulator. FWB is culling its OS X version of RealPC from a version developed for the Solaris operating system.

"The Solaris version was already more stable, had more features, and sported better emulation [than the OS 9 product], said Prewitt, noting that developing from one version of Unix to another is a less daunting proposition than a ground-up rewrite.

There are still a few challenges to overcome. Prewitt told MacCentral that the first OS X-native version of RealPC won't work with Windows XP, for example, although that support is planned.

Anyone who has purchased the Mac OS 9 version of RealPC since April will be eligible for a free upgrade, according to Prewitt. Owners who bought the software before then will be able to upgrade for US$20.

This story, "FWB continues development of RealPC for OS X" was originally published by PCWorld.

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