Monthly Archives: April 2006

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losing my (mac) religion

Although I have long since gone back to the world of windows, something happened last week that no one really expected.

Apple released a beta of a product called ‘Boot Camp’ that would allow owners of intel-based Macs to install Windows. The product will eventually be merged into the core OS X product, but it allows users to boot their shiny new intel-Mac with either OS X or Windows XP.

Apple takes great pains to note that they do NOT support Windows XP on the Boot Camp download page.

Already, the Mac fanatics are declaring victory — saying that this will convince the masses to abandon their pcs and make the switch to macs. Even Wall Street seems to be convinced this will mean a boost in Apple sales.

Others, from CNet and Robert X. Cringely, take other stances, saying that it’s a gimmick and/or it only helps Microsoft, not Apple.

Microsoft is currently debating supporting Macs running Windows XP, and I predict they probably will. Why? Because, after supporting all the other guys (Dell, HP, Gateway, Lenovo, Acer, etc, etc), Apple is just one more hardware vendor.

Will it really convince the masses to switch? Probably not. Boot Camp provides a nice security blanket for anyone sitting on the fence about switching, because now they can happily boot Windows XP on their Mac and run any apps that don’t have a mac counterpart.

The biggest problem, still, is the price point. Macs are still cost several hundred dollars more than their PC competition. That’s not counting software, and a lot of that is in flux because every sofware company on the Mac side of things now has to build ‘universal’ binaries that will run on the new intel-based machines as well as legacy systems.

So, why would I really pay more for a Mac if I’m just going to put Windows on it?

I looked long and hard for the last month at my options for a new laptop. My choices came down to three: an HP nx9420, the Acer Travelmate 8204, and the MacBook Pro. The mac intrigued me more for the design/weight features than the OS. The HP, though light for a 17″ notebook, was going to be too big for what I wanted. I looked at 15.4″ and 17″ laptops side by side at a local CompUSA, and I decided that the 15.4″ screen was plenty big.

So, it came down to the MacBook and the Acer. Ultimately, I chose the Acer, and it was at my door before the Boot Camp announcement. Would that have made a difference? Probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, the MacBook is one nice piece of hardware. The Acer had the same basic configuration as the MacBook Pro, and it was several hundred dollars cheaper. And, I can run everything I have on it.

For me, the OS doesn’t matter to me, so long as it doesn’t get in my way. Windows XP has been relatively painless for me, and it gives me the flexibility to run just about anything.

Linux woudl be nice, but it’s still a long way off from being a desktop contender. They are making great progress, though. I plan on installing SUSE 10 at some point.

Vista promises to have some of the spiffy OS X features that wows everyone, if it ever ships, that is.

But, now that OS X runs on an intel machine, wouldn’t it be cool to run it on my Acer laptop? After all, the hardware is basically the same.

Cringely suggests just that. Apple will take things one step further at some point in the future announce a “Boot Camp for Windows” that would allow OS X to be installed on standard PCs.

Heresy! cry the Mac faithful. Jobs would never allow it!!!

But, why wouldn’t he?

Ah, say the faithful, if OS X ran on any PC, then the masses would flock to OS X and kill Apple’s hardware business in the process.

But would they? Really?

The masses haven’t flocked to Apple for anything besides iPods, iTunes and QuickTime in years. Apple still holds 2.3% ish of the PC market, but that hasn’t really changed (maybe shrunk a few tenths of a percentage point – but it’s never really gone up).

Or, the fanatics argue, it kills the entire “Mac experience” by running OS X on something other than Apple hardware. Well, doesn’t booting up Windows XP on that spiffy intel-based Mac kill the “mac experience” as well?

In a way, rolling out Boot Camp for Windows benefits Apple in the same way Boot Camp is benefiting Microsoft now — more sales of their OS.

If Apple does such a thing, it will probably issue a lot of “not supported” statements, or they may partner with a couple of vendors. It may be that some features are intentionally disabled as well.

It’s providing the security blanket the other way. Here, keep your PC and Windows XP, but check out our cool OS. Give it a test drive. Maybe, you’ll learn to like it so much that you’ll completely switch over.

Worse case? Apple makes a bit more money off of OS sales and maybe loses a few hardware sales. But, I think, it might win them a few more converts.

Actually, I think the best way that Apple can help raise people’s comfort level with switching is to provide them a list of equivalent apps. Oh, you like Office? We gotcha covered? Like graphics? Check out Adobe products on the Mac. Need development tools? Look at these.

Maybe there’s already a list out there, and I just haven’t seen it.

Now, what would be really wacky would be if Windows, after Vista, announces it’s abandoning its core for a unix/linux flavor, and the next version of windows would be unix-based.

Now, at that point, you would have three operating systems all running on the same basic hardware, competing over who provides the best ‘user experience.’

At that point, the REAL OS wars would begin…