Apples Boot Camp and the Myth of Mac Software Availability

Opinion: Apple and virtualization vendors are busy marching forward with improved support for running Windows XP and Vista on Intel Macs. But are there really so few native solutions that Mac users must resort to Windows? Or is something else going

Since its beginnings, the Mac has been discounted—saddled with the claim that theres a lack of native software when compared to the X86 PC platform.

Now, Apple and a growing number of virtualization vendors are pitching Windows compatibility solutions to the Mac masses. The rub? Most Mac users wont need any of these Windows programs.

Still, the choices for running Windows on the Mac keep expanding. Apple and virtualization vendors keep refining their different approaches.

On Sept. 20, Parallels released RC Build 1898 of its Desktop for Mac v2.2 virtualization software.

According to the company, the update includes performance optimizations; compatibility with the forthcoming OS X v10.5, called "Leopard," and Windows Vista; and support for a wider range of USB devices.

Theres an interesting feature called the "virtual disk cache policy option," which lets users determine which OS will have its performance optimized. If Windows needs more resources, you can let it have it.

Meanwhile, Apple on Sept. 15 released Boot Camp 1.1.1, an update to its dual-boot solution for its Intel Mac models.

The maintenance update provides compatibility with the new Mac Pro workstations and improves support with various devices integrated in Mac hardware, like Webcams.

/zimages/2/28571.gifWhat are the strategies now behind Windows virtualization and dual-boot software for the Mac? Click here to read more.

But when we get down to it, are these Windows solutions what Mac owners really want to get their work done? Obviously not.

Mac users want to run native Mac software rather than Windows programs. Duh! Of course, OS X software is the most compatible, uses the standard interface gestures and is the most understandable for Mac users. (This concept has been hard for hard-core PC fans to understand. Why dont Mac owners just get with the rest of the industry and run Windows on a PC, they say.)

And running Boot Camp or Parallels means that users have to purchase and load Windows on their machines. This isnt a terrible burden, but it isnt close to the Mac experience.

At the same time, Mac users have long been on the defensive against the charge of the platform having fewer programs.

Despite objections from the Mac camp, the reality is there are fewer programs for the Mac. This was true when PC owners were running DOS, and it hasnt changed when the world moved to Windows.

For example, I have been told that theres no good Mac software for dog breeders. I can believe this.

And theres no true equivalent for Microsoft Exchange.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read some SMB-savvy suggestions that Apple should take for inclusion in Mac OS X Leopard.

So, its understandable if distasteful for Mac users to run a Windows program, when theres no real Mac alternative.

While grumbling over this market reality and counting the numbers of apps, Mac fans also claim that market forces weed out the also-rans leaving the platform with choices of quality rather than choices of quantity.

Perhaps its unkind to point out that "quality" in this case means that the software runs on a Mac.

Yet, when I researched a rather vertical niche segment the other day, I found that the Mac software field isnt such a wasteland.

Instead, there were plenty of choices for free and commercial software. The real problem came down to the difficulty in finding the Mac versions.

I looked at diabetes software for LifeSpans OneTouch Ultra blood glucose monitoring device.

The Ultra is a cute little meter that can store 150 readings in its memory. The device also provides a proprietary interface on the bottom that users can connect to a PC with either a serial or USB cable and download the information.

However, LifeSpan doesnt offer a Mac version of its diabetes management software. According to its Web site, the company has no plans to support OS X.

Heading out on the Web, I looked to see what features other programs might offer. I found a number of sites with long lists, with the Mac apps often stuck in the "Other" category, along with PalmOS titles. Some sites put the titles in alphabetical order, which made searching by platform sometimes difficult.

Of course, there were more Windows titles than Mac titles, but not eight or nine times as one might expect, given the relative market numbers. And most of the products were bare-bones record keepers without even a charting capability.

There were a good number of titles that offered more in the way of charts and nutrition information. On the Mac side theres Paul Nesfields Diabetes Logbook X (free); CalorieKings Nutrition and Exercise Manager for Mac OS X ($45) and TothePoint Softwares Type2Tracker ($15).

Of the ones that support input from a glucose meter, many are tied to a single device. There are many of these reader devices on the market, each with its own proprietary interface and file format.

Given my criteria, most of the programs that I was presented with were out of the running whether I was on a Mac or Windows machine.

So much for the greater selection for Windows users.

Next Page: Finding the Hiding Mac Apps.