ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Discussions related to using VirtualBox on Mac OS X hosts.

ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby macandroid » 23. Jun 2020, 13:35

Apple just announced macOS 16 / Big Sur along wil ARM (A12) based Macs, the first ones to be announced the end of this year. And after a few years INTEL Macs will completely be phased out.

That means for running Windows / Linux on an ARM Mac requires an ARM version of VirtualBox (and obviously ARM versions of the guest OSes, of which Windows and Linux are availble now.

But does Oracle plan to port the macOS version of VirtualBox to ARM ?
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mpack » 23. Jun 2020, 15:13

Nope, there will be no port, for the same reason that VirtualBox isn't available on an iPhone. VirtualBox is not a CPU emulator, it requires x86 CPU.

I suspect VirtualBox will be only one of many "obscure" applications that won't make it into the Apple/ARM ecosphere.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby ptram » 24. Jun 2020, 02:08

Is there any chance it will run under Rosetta?

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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby macandroid » 24. Jun 2020, 08:41

I don't mean a CPU emulator, but VB running natively on ARM, so it can obviously only run ARM guests, so ARM Windows or ARM Linux (and even Android), which are already available.
I don't expect an ARM Virtualbox running X86 guests as it is not an emulator.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mpack » 24. Jun 2020, 08:56

macandroid wrote:I don't expect an ARM Virtualbox running X86 guests as it is not an emulator.

Even so, I think you've missed that VirtualBox is an emulator of PC peripheral hardware. If you recompiled it for ARM (and let's ignore the fact that ARM doesn't have VT-x/AMD-v), it would still be emulating PC peripherals. What use is that with an ARM CPU? Targeting a different hardware platform would be a huge undertaking, basically a complete rewrite - and for that to be worthwhile there would have to be a PC like standardized platform with a huge market of people itching to buy this... and I doubt that the MacOS ecosphere is it, not for the next decade anyway.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby multiOS » 24. Jun 2020, 09:09

Oracle is a commercial enterprise; and so is therefore driven by profitability (current and future) and its own future business needs/plans. I would imagine developments, such as the one you are asking about, will only happen if there is a perceived and quantifiable business need and earning potential forecasts which support the development and future maintenance costs. Nobody on these forums is likely to be privy to such sensitive business information, so you will simply have to wait and see.

Edit: mpack beat me to the business side of the answer.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mpack » 24. Jun 2020, 09:19

multiOS wrote:Nobody on these forums is likely to be privy to such sensitive business information, so you will simply have to wait and see.

Yes, it should always be emphasized that these are user discussion forums. Few of us (e.g. nobody here) is an Oracle employee, and even those few that are will not have been empowered to reveal company plans to the masses, even if they were privy to them. Hence all of this discussion is personal opinion.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby XavierR » 26. Jun 2020, 09:08

I understand the current macos version shares most of its code with the versions for other OSes as architecture dependant code is the same.
That being said, I very much hope there will be some ARM version, as a large part of my work relies on having a virtualized Linux running on the Mac. I am now planning on getting the last Mac intel I can get so that the I have to deal with the question later rather than earlier.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby scottgus1 » 26. Jun 2020, 20:13

While one could wish for lots of things it is important to remain grounded in reasonable expectations so we don't get stuck in 'wish mode' and never get anywhere.

Virtualbox is tuned to the x86 CPU environment, not the ARM environment. So it is unlikely that Oracle will desire to port Virtualbox to ARM as things stand now.

Macs use x86 Intel processors now. Virtualbox runs on that x86 platform. Apple's phones and tablets use ARM, and an emulator is needed to run ARM code on an x86 CPU. As mentioned before, Virtualbox is not an emulator, so it cannot handle iPhone & iPad code. It's the wrong tool.

If Mac moves to ARM, Virtualbox won't run on a Mac anymore. After that it will take enough of Oracle's rich paying customers who use Macs to want Virtualbox on ARM Macs before Oracle would port Virtualbox over to ARM (in my opinion, of course, and if it can be done). One or two customers probably wouldn't move ARM Virtualbox into existence unless they're the biggest customers and definitely no amount of free Virtualbox users will have any say.

Just mentioning the practical side so we don't get stuck.

On the other hand, Virtualbox is open source, so a Mac enthusiast or 20 could band together....
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby multiOS » 27. Jun 2020, 12:21

Well said scottgus1; and I think those who have "VirtualBox for ARM" on their Wish List also do need to recognise that IF it were ever to come to pass, it could not run any x86 VMs because they wouldn't recognise the ARM processor. So, for example, Mac Developers/Users wouldn't be able to run MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) or earlier MacOS versions as a VM on an ARM system. Nor could they use any other non-ARM OS, just as current VirtualBox Users cannot install/run non-x86 VMs.
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