Compatibility Issues

 
 
By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-04-05
 
 
 

Who Will Attend Apples Boot Camp?


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."

Next Page: Compatibility issues.

Compatibility Issues


Running Windows on a Mac might solve the software compatibility issue—and thats a positive development, said David Bray, an associate with the Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner.

But it might introduce additional costs, he said.

"My first concern is this just going to be a more expensive hybrid OS X/Windows PC where I need to by copies of both OS licenses?" he said.

"Further, the primary point to owning a Mac was the superior user experience provided by the hardware coupled with the Mac OS; moving to Windows seems to lose that benefit."

Rebooting from one operating system to the other frequently can be inconvenient, he said.

"What Id rather see is better development of the ability, through virtualization, to run Windows within OS X or vice versa without having to reboot, recognizing there already have been some developments" there, he said.

Microsoft officials in Redmond, Wash., for one, have said they are committed to moving ahead with Virtual PC for Intel Macs, which would allow the machines to run Windows applications at near-native speeds. Microsoft has not yet announced a ship date for the product.

"Were pleased that Apple customers are excited about running [Windows], and that Apple is responding to meet the demand," said Kevin Kutz, director for Microsoft Windows Client, in an a statement e-mailed to eWEEK.

Apple doesnt appear to have plans to offer the ability to run Windows and Mac OS X simultaneously, however. "Were sticking to what weve done today. We think we have a very good simple, easy to understand solution for people," Croll said. "Its the simplest way to solve the problem."

Given businesses IT worries, consumers are much more likely to try out Boot Camp immediately.

Many consumers have expressed interest in running both Mac OS X and Windows on their Intel-based Macs.

For buyers where money is less of an object, such as gamers or other enthusiasts, the ability to run Windows on a Mac—given the Macs cache—could present an opportunity for Apple to gain market share.

Those consumers might buy a Mac in order to use Mac OS X for its user-friendliness, or its video and photo editing capabilities, but also access to the latest Windows-specific software such as games, Bray said.

Indeed, some users had already taken up the cause on their own. One individual sponsored a contest to create a workable way to boot Windows XP on a Mac. A working solution appeared in late March, he said on his Web site.

However, Apples solution appears to be more effective in that it offers a graphical interface that walks the user through installing Windows and supplies critical software such as graphics drivers and system firmware needed to make running Windows go smoothly.

Yet despite giving Apple a crack at additional sales from people switching from PCs, Boot Camp leaves room for improvement, Kay said.

"Maybe this will give Apple the chance to take some share from the PC hardware OEMs," he said. "But I dont think its going to be that big…unless its [providing] a much better experience."

Ideally, "youd be able to see your files from either operating environment symmetrically," Kay said.

"Itd have something like fast user switching where you could go between environments smoothly…not only see but read and write data from both sides. Thats what would really make it really interesting."

However, running Windows on an $800 Mac Mini or a $1,299 iMac will present most people with the prospect of purchasing a full version of Windows XP—Windows XP Home generally sells for around $200—in addition.

"Now that $1,299 iMac looks more like $1,500," Wilcox said.

Although, "If youre a person that was thinking about having two computers… That $200 or $300 extra for Windows is a lot less than a new computer."

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments from Apple representatives. Mary Jo Foley provided additional reporting for this story.

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