Boot Camp Decoded
By Arnold Reinhold
“Boot Camp” is a free Apple software package, released in public beta form on April 5, that enables the new Intel-based Macs to run
Windows XP. Boot Camp will be built into “Leopard,” Apple’s next major release of its Mac OS X operating system, expected in early 2007. Boot Camp generated great public notice, with headlines such as
“Hell Freezes Over,” but it hardly came as a surprise to informed
Apple watchers. We predicted this capability in our January newsletter article “Apple To Establish A Presence In The Windows
Market In 2006.” The die was cast in June 2005 when Apple announced its switch to Intel microprocessors. The only suspense revolved around a subsequent announcement by Microsoft that it would not support Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) on 32-bit architectures in its much-delayed Vista operating system. EFI is Intel’s modern replacement for the archaic BIOS technology for starting up PCs. This forced Apple to come up with a way to emulate BIOS capabilities under
As its name may imply, Boot Camp sets up your Mac for dual booting.
Whenever you restart your Mac you can choose to boot into OS-X or into
Windows XP. Another company, Parallels, has announced a virtualization solution that lets you run both OS-X and Windows XP at the same time. Assuming security issues are properly worked out, this is a better solution since one can easily switch between Mac and
Windows applications and even cut and paste data between them.
Apple itself may eventually offer this capability itself.
The clear theme that is emerging here is convergence between the
Macintosh and Windows computing worlds. Apple can no longer seriously expect most software developers to maintain separate but equal versions of their products to run on the Macintosh platform. Some have suggested that Apple may eventually switch to Microsoft’s Vista operating system and abandon OS-X altogether. The transition to Intel architecture has dealt Apple many strong cards and that is indeed one of them, but we don’t expect to see it played anytime soon. Apple and Intel have just begun on a partnership that enables both companies to field branded innovation against the now-commodity Windows-x86 PC architecture. OS-X gives them the flexibility to do this without waiting for the next release from ponderous Microsoft.
There are two other approaches to application convergence. Apple can emulate the Windows application programming interfaces (APIs) on OS-X, allowing native Windows apps to run on Macs. There is an open source effort called WINE that has attempted to do that for Linux, with limited success. Backed by Apple, it could do much better, with many developers eventually testing their products against the emulated
APIs. This action could, however, be taken by Microsoft as a declaration of war, something Apple has carefully avoided.
The other approach is to release a software layer that lets applications written for the OS-X APIs run on Windows. Apple has long been rumored to be maintaining just that capability. Apple currently has several of its key products running on both platforms, including
QuickTime, Filemaker and the iTunes software for iPod, so it knows the issues well. This may be the best way for Apple to approach the convergence issue, since it protects Apple’s developer base and is less likely to arouse the giant of Redmond.
Understand that all these options became available to Apple once it switched to Intel. Which ones Apple chooses and when are business decisions, not technical ones.
Arnold owns a lot of stock in Apple, which undoubtedly affects his judgment.