The Real Boot Camp Lesson: Moving Beyond the OS

Opinion: Dual-boot machines are still clunky, but portend an interesting future in which virtualization frees applications from operating systems.

Now that Apple has rescinded its past distaste of all things Windows and is allowing the Macintosh to share space (albeit a walled-off one) with Windows, shouldnt the company just go all the way?

All the way would be licensing Dell, HP and Lenovo to run OS X on the Windows systems leaving their factories.

Not in a million years, you say? Before I remind you that Chairman Jobs dismissed the idea of running Windows on his Apple boxes, Ill say maybe I agree with you, but not for the reasons you might have thought.

If the rise of virtual software means that the underlying operating systems will soon become just that—underlying and not particularly important—maybe the introduction of the MacWindows box is simply a small step rather than a big leap in desktop evolution.

The idea of a dual-boot machine has certainly generated a lot of interest, but such a machine is cumbersome and only slightly less a kludge than having two systems sitting on your desk. Remember, not only are the operating systems sitting in different disk partitions, but, as eWEEK Labs analyst Jason Brooks points out, the file storage systems are distinct as well.

The dual-boot system is really interesting more for what it portends than for what it is today.

And a lot of that portending is built around the idea of virtualization. Virtualization is a topic we have reported on quite a bit, including coverage of Dells chief technology officer talking about client virtualization and new products aimed at a more elegant solution to working with the Mac and Windows (and Linux, et al.) such as Parallels.

In a truly virtualized computing environment, the application will rule. If an application requires extra-strength security or a specific operating system, the application will call for the operating system without regard to where the OS resides.

This will mean great change for software vendors who have built huge companies out of operating system tie-ins and licensing agreements. In the end, users may have no more idea of which operating system they are running than which company made the capacitors sitting on the desktops motherboards.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about virtualization options that go beyond Boot Camp for the Mac.

While much focus has been on Windows booting on Macs and the Microsoft Vista system running late, Ive been watching the latest startup from Michael Robertson, who has been launching a series of applications under the AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) banner. So far he has AjaxWrite, AjaxSketch and Eyespot, which is video-editing software.

While, so far, I dont think Microsoft or Adobe have much to worry about, the ability of these applications to work (sort of) over the Web is a good pointer to the future.

Applications should work anywhere regardless of the underlying operating systems. Corporate applications should be able to carry their authentication and security characteristics with them to any system rather than being tied to one operating system.

If one application is tied to one operating system while another requires a different operating environment, than the switchover should be transparent to the user. In the virtual operating system world, users can work with the system that best fits them and their corporate needs rather than being handcuffed to a proprietary environment. And that is the most important message that Apples Boot Camp dual-operating system software delivers.

eWEEK magazine editor in chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at

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