Windows on Macs? Chill folks. It's much ado about nothing

Summary:I don't know about you, but I'm totally nonplussed when it comes to the enthusiasm that Apple's Boot Camp is being met with.  Gartner has these graphs that show how, in something called a 5-phase hype-cycle, new technologies are originally meant with ill-founded euphoria followed by a trough of disillusionment.

I don't know about you, but I'm totally nonplussed when it comes to the enthusiasm that Apple's Boot Camp is being met with.  Gartner has these graphs that show how, in something called a 5-phase hype-cycle, new technologies are originally meant with ill-founded euphoria followed by a trough of disillusionment.  We should move straight to the trough if you ask me.

With all due respect to my fellow bloggers here on ZDNet The most impressive thing about Apple's notebooks has really never been the hardware. (Microsoft employee John Carroll who want to rush out and buy an Intel Mac or Jeffrey Young who says Boot Camp will revolutionize the portable marketplace), sliced-bread still rates in my book when compared to this somewhat meaningless announcement. Provided Apple eventually works the bugs out of its Intel systems' ability to boot into either OS X or Windows (bear in mind, Boot Camp is in beta) is just not all that exciting folks.  At best, this can be summarized as "Windows market takes on another Tier 2 systems manufacturer" and that's really nothing to write home about.

For starters, most Macs that I know of are really geared to work with OS X.  Putting Windows on them is like fitting a square peg in a round hole. The great thing about the way Microsoft licenses Windows is that it creates all sorts of competition between system manufacturers to build great systems for running Windows.  The results have been desktops and notebooks that have all sorts of whizbang features  (eg: special keyboards) that enhance the Windows computing experience.  Not only that, but these systems come in all shapes and sizes and are routinely priced way below Macs. On the notebook front, they're often lighter, are more easily expandable, and have better battery life.  And, quite frankly, while I'm quite impressed by some Apple desktop systems with their large brilliant displays (will there be Windows drivers for that hardware?),  the most impressive thing about Apple's notebooks has really never been the hardware.  It has been the operating system.  There are some very slick Intel-based notebooks out there that I would take in a heartbeat over Apple's PowerBooks if they could run OS X. 

If you're one of the very few who will really need something like Boot Camp (and I mean really need it), then I agree with Jason O'Grady: You're probably better off going the virtualization route.  Along those lines, it appears as though VMware (my favorite virtualization company) is readying an OS X version of it's software.    In other words, an Intel-based OS X system will probably be able to host Windows or Linux virtual machines.  This isn't too much of a stretch for VMware.  Under the hood, OS X is really Unix and  Unix has enough commonalities with Linux (already supported by VMware) that an OS X port shouldn't be too difficult now that OS X runs on Intel's architecture.  Whether VMware can go the other way where OS X is a guest on a Linux or Windows-based host OS remains to be seen but is certainly within the realm of possibility. 

But back to Boot Camp, I'm in actually in Cringley's camp (see A Whole New Ball Game: Blame Dell for Window Vista's Latest Delay, but Blame Microsoft for Apple's Boot Camp).  Regarding Dell, Cringley says:

It is easy to forget that Microsoft works mainly through its OEM partners, which include Dell, HP, and many others. If Microsoft announces a date by which some future product is going to be available, they can only do so with the agreement of the OEMs.....According to those familiar with the way Dell qualifies new software, they are very careful about their shipping OS/application sets. They put together new builds every quarter, and test them for a full quarter. This means that to ship something in October it has to be into a build set in July, which means it has to be slotted some time in April. And that's just for an application. Now imagine what Dell's test plan looks like for a whole new operating system.

Hard to argue with.  Maybe we'll actually see Vista in the Summer of 2007.  But, regarding Boot Camp, Cringley really nails it:

Readers (and Wall Street) took [Apple's Boot Camp] to mean much more than I did, and I like to think I am correct....Some cunning readers see this as a huge coup for Apple that will somehow keep Microsoft from shipping Vista (explain that to me again, please) and eventually take the hardware leadership away from Dell and the software leadership away from Microsoft. Yeah, right.....I doubt that its existence, especially as a beta product, is going to make some Fortune 500 company suddenly sanction the purchase of Macs because they can, with some effort and an extra $100, pretend to be Windows machines. While Boot Camp might help show prospective purchasers the superiority of Apple hardware, those purchasers would have to buy their Macs first and then convince themselves that they had done the right thing, which is totally backwards.

While I don't necessarily agree with the hardware superiority comment (see my earlier thoughts on this), Cringley has it right.  This isn't the big deal everyone is making it out to be.

Topics: Operating Systems

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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