|Wednesday, April 5, 2006
09:48 - We meant to do this all along
Good thing they didn't announce this on April 1st. Via a whole bunch of people:
More and more people are buying and loving Macs. To make this choice simply irresistible, Apple will include technology in the next major release of Mac OS X, Leopard, that lets you install and run the Windows XP operating system on your Mac. Called Boot Camp (for now), you can download a public beta today.
The timing of this (and its status as a beta) suggests that this isn't something Apple had counted on doing—but presumably they also hadn't counted on there being such a vigorous grass-roots push toward getting Windows running on Macs as to support a $12,000 bounty. (I also don't think they counted on the Intel Macs being so good, competitively with other PC platforms, that they might actually be able to make a business case upon selling their Macs as potential Windows machines, using an officially-supported bootloader.)
This won't have been the first time Apple has made a hardware-hack-based effort to wean people off of Windows by degrees. I remember when they had a whole series of lesser-known variants of machines such as the Power Mac 6100 and Quadra 610 labeled "DOS Compatible"; they included what was essentially a whole 486-based PC on a daughterboard, including its own RAM. Of course you had to pick which system to boot into, so Apple had a multi-OS bootloader back then—a far more comprehensive solution than Boot Camp, though there was a lot more of a technical gulf between the two platforms back then than there is today. You ran Windows on one of these things and you found yourself crippled by the one-button mouse and the shaky support for things like serial ports. My boss only had one because QuickBooks only ran on Windows and he had to use it, but otherwise apparently nobody bought them—they were pains in the butt. But nowadays, Macs are all based on IDE/SATA hard drives, VGA-based video, multi-button mice, and of course Intel CPUs—nothing that will be foreign to a Windows specter inhabiting a modern Mac.
To modern eyes, the Intel Macs represent Macs that have come as close as they can possibly get to the Wintel world without Apple turning into a plain-Jane boutique PC maker like Alienware. Whether intended as such or not, it looks like a sporting concession; and all the right people are reacting in all the right ways. And what with the revelations that Vista will be no bargain to wait for, the only thing preventing a whole lot of people from switching to what has been demonstrated to be at the very least a highly competitive platform with a much better track record of delivering useful products is the psychological aspect of being without the ever-dependable flexibility of Windows. For people who have to be able to run certain Windows apps (read: games), or who just like to have the ability to run whatever interesting little Windows app that comes along, going Mac cold-turkey is just too much to ask.
Just wait'll they start exploring the world of Mac shareware, though.
So this might amount to a very minor technical investment by Apple that, coming at a time when demand is clearly running high for Windows-compatible Macs like never was the case back in the mid-90s, might be just the ticket they need for widespread adoption of the Mac like they'd never previously envisioned. Or at least that there's a whole bunch of money on the table that they can gulp down without pausing for breath.
And I just can't help but like Apple's style:
Boot Camp lets you install Windows XP without moving your Mac data, though you will need to bring your own copy to the table, as Apple Computer does not sell or support Microsoft Windows.(1) Boot Camp will burn a CD of all the required drivers for Windows so you don't have to scrounge around the Internet looking for them.
They know who they're talking to.
Oh, and there's even better digs in the right-hand sidebar:
Macs use an ultra-modern industry standard technology called EFI to handle booting. Sadly, Windows XP, and even the upcoming Vista, are stuck in the 1980s with old-fashioned BIOS. But with Boot Camp, the Mac can operate smoothly in both centuries.
. . .
Word to the Wise
Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it’ll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes.
Check out the FAQ, though. They've clearly thought this out pretty carefully, and even gone to the trouble to make drivers for the Mac-specific keyboard keys under Windows, and a Startup Disk control panel, not to mention support for the ATI graphics in the current Macs (which just might make high-end gaming feasible). Some features aren't supported, but dang—this can't help but make for a nicer experience than on that old 6100.
UPDATE: Hey, this is actually pretty slick: it does graphical, non-destructive disk partitioning to make a bootable Windows volume.
Also I love their Apple-ified Windows logo: it looks like an NFPA fire hazard symbol.
UPDATE: TUAW's Damien Barrett thinks he sees why Apple's doing this:
Imagine a school budget that simply replaces all the computers campus-wide with new Intel Macs that can run anything we throw at them. Need to run Windows? Image the iMac with the WinXP image. Need to run Mac OS X? Image the iMac with the Tiger (or Leopard) image. Need to run either (because it's a dual-purpose classroom)? Install both and teach the lab assistants and instructors how switch between the environments. It might even be scheduled to reboot the classroom between classes so it's transparent to the end-user.
Now imagine that you're a sysadmin and you could tell my boss that you could outfit a classroom or a lab with one model computer that could run either your Mac image or your Windows image, or even both of the images? Suddenly your rooms are dual-use rooms. The AutoCAD kids can simple boot the computer to Windows to turn their software and two hours later, the Graphic Design students can boot the computers to Mac OS X to run their design applications!
Boot Camp is a bombshell change in the PC desktop marketplace. Suddenly, there will be options available to us sysadmins that we've never had before. This development is going to allow an organization to achieve the holy grail in computer workstation management--complete standardization on one model computer (e.g. the new Intel iMac). I'm so excited about this possibility that my workchair is spinning. Certainly, I'm not alone.
If Boot Camp makes wide press—which it will, most likely including John Dvorak who will claim this just proves he was right about Apple "switching to Windows"—or if this is made into a major selling point for Leopard, the entire nature of Apple's computer business will be changed, at least in popular perception. Sober thought will settle on Macs as being "the computers that can do it all"—and their higher prices will just reflect their being twice as much computer—and plain old Windows PCs will end up looking like bargain-basement remainders, the econoboxes of the computer world.
They certainly seem to be trying to get the word out.