Microsoft WorldWide Telescope centers on Windows

When Microsoft releases its WorldWide Telescope this spring, the program will be a Windows-only download. Much of the astronomical community, however, uses Macs and other Unix-based hardware. So, when principal developer Jonathan Fay shows off the program, he often uses a MacBook Pro. The telescope program itself, though, is running in Windows using the Mac's […]

When Microsoft releases its WorldWide Telescope this spring, the program will be a Windows-only download.

Much of the astronomical community, however, uses Macs and other Unix-based hardware. So, when principal developer Jonathan Fay shows off the program, he often uses a MacBook Pro. The telescope program itself, though, is running in Windows using the Mac's dual-boot Boot Camp software.

Other Mac users will have to use similar technology. The program can theoretically run using virtualization programs, such as VMware's Fusion or Parallels, but 3D applications often throw those programs for a loop.

Principal researcher Curtis Wong used a WinTel laptop running Vista on Monday night to demonstrate the program to journalists at a reception kicking off TechFest, Microsoft's internal science fair. Microsoft first demoed an early version of the software at last year's TechFest, while its current incarnation was shown last week at the TED conference in Monterey, Calif.

Given his penchant for Cupertino-designed hardware, I wondered why Fay was less than enthusiastic about prospects for a native Mac version. He said the type of programming needed to make the software a reality can be done vastly faster using Microsoft's .Net and C# programming tools.

To make it truly cross-platform, he said, "I'd basically be looking at three to four years of development." Plus, he quipped, "It doesn't hurt if a few people buy Windows."

Although Wong and Fay have done the actual software development largely over the last 18 months, the genesis of the project goes back to conversations Wong had years ago with now-missing Microsoft researcher Jim Gray, to whom Wong paid tribute.

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Microsoft, WorldWide Telescope, WWT, Windows