Run Windows on Intel Macs with Apple's blessing

bootcampFirst let’s recall after Apple announced it was moving to Intel chips this quote, ”We haven’t done anything to explicitly prevent it, but we haven’t done anything to encourage it either,” Apple Senior Product Line Manager Wiley Hodges said of running Windows on Macs. If this was ever true, it is no longer. After all the talk about how to get Windows XP running on the new Intel Macs, and the subsequent contest that made some hacker 13,000$USD richer, Apple has gone ahead and released Boot Camp, software that sets up and allows for dual booting of OS X and Windows XP. They even released a ‘firmware update’ so that Macs will have the native BIOS support boot other OSs (like Windows, Linux, BSD, Beos, etc) on all of their present Mactels, and we suspect future releases will just include this ‘update’, making Boot Camp unnecessary for Linux/BSD fans. But get this, once you install the BIOS update, boots of your Mac will include ”…a very loud, un-Mac-like system beep is normal at the start of this process.” Ekk! As you can tell I’m unsure of how to feel about this, so of course first let’s go to Apple’s sales pitch, ”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.” Of course this will fan the flames of conspiracies promoting the theory that Apple is going to base its next major OS upgrade on Windows, but I think it’s just what it seems; another way of Apple trying for a bigger piece of the pie. I don’t know if I think it’s a good or bad idea, or if Apple envisioned this before or during the switch to Intel chips from PowerPC; but regardless, this changes everything. The tradional Mac user’s “You run Windows? Yuck” comment will be turned on it’s side now as more and more will opt for the beautifully designed Macs instead of the standard/drab Dell boxen that are so prevalent, but I’m sure at the heart of the matter is the enterprise, where Windows has always reigned supreme. Would Apple really want to sell more Macs to companies just so they can run Windows on them? I doubt it, I suspect Boot Camp will provide the ‘virtualization’ that everyone is talking about, and yes, Boot Camp does support running both OSs side by side, but look to the future where you can click on an icon and have a Windows app come up in OS X just like OS 9 (classic) apps do now. Strange times? Yes, but hey, Apple stock holders will be happy, many more people will consider and buy Macs now; but long term what will it mean for the Apple experience? That indescribable feeling of being outside of the mainstream? I know the Mac faithful will say this is another, “Brilliant move!” by Steve Jobs, and I truly hope it is, but I don’t know right now. I want it to be, but my gut says it’s not. Please quote me on this, as I so much want to be wrong.

MS AppleOk, so enough of my ‘what if’ babble, back to my passion of ‘what if Linux’ babble! Clearly many geeks are holding out on their next computer purchase waiting to see when Linux distros will not only successfully boot on Intel Macs (alas, you could boot Linux on an Intel Mac before it could boot XP, and runs the standard Gnome desktop on Linux now too) – but after today’s Boot Camp / new firmware release, people already have Ubuntu Linux running on Mactels without any funny tricks (picture). The cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Even though I’m highly allergic to cats, my next computer will likely be a Macbook to replace my aging G3 iBook and it’ll run at least OS X and Linux, with Windows as an option if I work somewhere that allows me to run my own laptop, but not a non-win OS - and then FreeBSD just because I can. Quad-boot. Cool? Sure, but I feel weird, it’s the kind of weird I felt when I heard Apple was going Intel; it’s like, where’s the punchline? Of course in the geek community this story is moving at the speed of light, just now there’s a new Slashdot article that includes comments from a PC World (!?) review which includes comments like, ”_…preferences page that Boot Camp installs to ensure that XP was set as the default OS_” and ”I’d think I was working on a standard Windows PC with a wide-screen monitor. And that’s exactly what you’d want from a usable dual-boot system.” I am starting to worry that Apple is going the way that all the na-sayers said, more mainstream, less unique and perhaps in the future less focused on the OS, and just on hardware. If OS X slips away and people are just buying Macs to run Windows on it the whole dynamic is lost. I’ve already slept on it, and I’m still conflicted. Oh well, what else is new! And this whole thing has me thinking, I wonder what I can get if I wanted to sell a 3.2Gig Pentium 4 Dell with a 6600GT Nvidia card…and how much one of those new iMacs go for? So, to close with a Wall Street Journal’s comment, ”All in all, Boot Camp works really well. Whether you want to run Mac or Windows programs, an Apple computer may be the only computer you’ll need.” Indeed.

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