Andrew Kantor, USA TODAY
The big technology news this past week was Apple's beta release of
Boot Camp -- software that allows Windows XP to be installed on three
Macintosh computers. (The ones built with Intel chips, instead of
PowerPCs.) The idea is that people who prefer the Mac but need to use
software that's only available for Windows (and there's plenty) could
have the best of both worlds.
Today, according to Information Week, the Mac's desktop share is less
than 5%. But Boot Camp, say some people, will overcome that hurdle and
help propel the Mac into the mainstream. Businesses will buy Macs for
their employees, confident they'll be able to run all the needed
Gamers, who have pretty much shunned the Mac because the gaming picks
are slim (to say the least), will be able to run those games on their
Mac hardware. In fact, from what I've read, those games will run
pretty darn well, too.
Could this be the thing that gets Windows users to try the Mac and,
eventually, convert? Wall Street apparently thought so, and Apple's
stock took a jump after the announcement.
You know what? Boot Camp isn't going to propel the Mac into the
mainstream. If anything, it will get Mac users to switch to
Windows. Sure, it'll be terrific for Mac fans not wanting to give up
their machine of choice but find more and more they need to use
Windows. But Boot Camp doesn't offer any kind of compelling argument
for PC users to buy Mac hardware.
The vast majority of software isn't made for Macs, so you'd end up
buying one just to run Windows -- talk about voodoo economics!
The Macs that can currently run Boot Camp are the Mac Mini, the iMac, and
the MacBook Pro notebook. Price-wise, they can't compete with PCs.
The Mini will set you back about $1100 for a machine with 512 MB of
RAM and a 60-GB hard drive -- that's when you add in a keyboard,
mouse, midrange monitor ($150), and a full copy of Windows XP.
The iMac is about $1600 (with 512 MB RAM, a 160-GB hard drive, and
Windows). The MacBook Pro, with an 80-GB hard drive, is about $2000
with Windows. (All these prices come from the Apple Store. I mention
the hard drive sizes in particular because you'd need the space to
load two operating systems and two sets of software.)
In contrast, a 3 GHz Gateway DX210 PC with 1 GB of RAM, a 160 GB hard
drive, and the same monitor I suggested for the Mac Mini -- that'll be
If you own a business, it's a pretty easy choice.
But let's say the extra cost of buying a Mac doesn't bother you -- your
employees really want Macs and have convinced you to buy them.
By the way, I certainly hope you haven't bought into the argument
"graphics are better on the Mac." Yeah, in 1992. Go to a bookstore and
grab a book on using Photoshop; you'll see that the Mac and Windows
versions are identical. In fact, Photoshop isn't yet optimized to
take advantage of the Mac's Intel processors.
Oh, and the whole "no viruses on the Mac" business? Besides the fact
that it's no longer true, you can get this neat stuff called anti-
Still, say you decide to buy Macs for your business. Your employees
will boot to Windows only to run the applications they absolutely have
to, but they'll "live" in OS X most of the time.
That'll be fun. Boot Camp doesn't allow quick switching between OS X
and Windows. You have to reboot:
"John, can you get me that info from the accounting system?"
"Sure, but hang on a few minutes while I reboot into Windows."
(The folks at Parallels.com, however, released "virtualization
software" that they say allows OS X to run any operating system,
including Windows, within OS X -- no rebooting required. So that's a
step above Boot Camp right off, even if it costs $50.)
Further, your IT department now has to support two operating systems,
which -- given that the majority of IT pros aren't Mac people -- means
hiring or training. But let's say you're blessed with a staff that
already knows both. You're still faced with two OSs, two sets of
problems, and double the headache. Oh, joy.
(Mac fans: You may now commence writing me to scream, "Double the
headache??? More like 1.00001 times!!! Macs don't cause headaches!!!")
So if Boot Camp isn't going to convince legions of Windows users to
join the Cult of Mac, what's the point? After all, Steve Jobs (praise
be unto him) wouldn't introduce a product without a plan.
Well, it's a great tool for people who want to stick with the Mac for
whatever reason -- security, hardware or software investment, or
simple preference. It will allow those people to access the tremendous
amount of software not available for the Mac while still letting them
boot into OS X when they wanted to use a Macintosh application -- or
simply if they wanted an OS X fix.
And businesses who have employees who need (or say they need) Macs
might also find Boot Camp useful for the same compatibility reasons.
But the notion put forward by some Mac folks -- that Boot Camp will
improve the Mac's position in the business and gaming marketplace --
is backward. Instead, it's more likely to convince Mac users to
switch to Windows once they've used it long enough to be deprogrammed.
And, judging by some of the comments to an Apple message board, they
may not have a choice. It seems that installing Boot Camp can kill OS
X, thus instantly converting Mac users to Windows.
It may not be so bad -- they might even enjoy the convenience of
sharing a common platform with the other 97% of the world, brought to
them courtesy of Boot Camp.
Andrew Kantor is a technology writer, pundit, and know-it-all who covers
technology for the Roanoke Times. He's also a former editor for PC Magazine
and Internet World. Read more of his work at kantor.com. His column appears
Fridays on USATODAY.com.
Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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