Apple Computers Boot Camp software might help the company gain some new recruits from the business world.
The Mac maker on April 5 made available a beta version of Boot Camp, software that allows Intel-processor Macs—which now include the latest iMac and Mac Mini desktops and MacBook Pro notebook—to boot either Mac OS X or Microsofts Windows XP.
After installing Windows XP via Boot Camp, users can select which OS theyd like to run at start-up.
Because it will allow Mac users to run both Windows XP and Mac OS X and Apple will make the feature part of its forthcoming Mac OS X 10.5, code-named Leopard, the software is likely to boost the machines appeal to businesses who might have passed on Mac hardware before due to its inability to run certain types of applications, analysts and IT managers said.
"If I were an enterprise buyer, this would remove one objection that Ive had [to Mac hardware] in the past," said Roger Kay, president of EndPoint Technologies Associates in Wayland, Mass. "You cant run the software weve brewed here in the IT department."
Indeed, "Theres some software [applications, such as computer aided design] that just wont run on Mac OS. They run on Windows," said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with JupiterResearch of New York City.
Apple, which first unveiled its plan to move to Intel processors from PowerPC chips in June 2005, has said all along that it wouldnt sell or support Windows. It reiterated that stance on April 5.
But soon after it announced the move, Apple started getting inquiries about whether or not Windows could run on the Intel-based Macs, said Brian Croll, senior director of OS X product marketing, in Cupertino, Calif.
"What we found was there were a lot of people out there that were really sold on the Mac," Croll said.
Still, one or two applications—or the general thought that something might be left behind—kept some from switching. Thus, Apple hatched Boot Camp with the idea of making the Mac "even more appealing to any Windows user considering making the move," he said.
The prospect makes financial sense for some businesses, Wilcox said.
A design house, for one, might save by buying one Mac, and running the two OSes and applications sets on it, versus buying two separate machines.
Another scenario Wilcox called "executive lust" might see large businesses rolling out MacBook Pro notebooks to some executives, who would largely run Windows.
Many large businesses have enterprise agreements in place with Microsoft, meaning they already have access to Windows XP.
"I expect the big uptake here will be with business portables," Wilcox said.
Support issues may crop up, however. Apple will not offer phone support for companies who wish to try out Boot Camp and run Windows on their Macs.
Croll said he wasnt ready to discuss whether Apple has plans to support Windows Vista—the upgraded version of Windows due out for businesses in November 2006 and consumers in January 2007—with Boot Camp.
Thus, while many will test out Boot Camp, IT managers arent likely to make quick decisions about dual-boot Macs, given their responsibilities for supporting users and also budgetary concerns outside of the operating system software itself.
"We will test this dual-boot capability in our lab and also try to determine where it would be useful in our business," said Tom Miller, senior direction of information technology at FoxHollow Technologies in Redwood City, Calif., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. FoxHollow maintains a small fleet of Macs used for graphic design.
"But more important to us is where is Apple going with their enterprise strategy. I would like to see a road map from Apple that provides details on interoperability with Windows and Linux, solutions being ported to the Apple server environment and other issues important to enterprise customers."