Apple: Macs can now run XP

Fancy a spell in Boot Camp?
Written by Candace Lombardi, Contributor

Fancy a spell in Boot Camp?

Apple has released a public beta version of Boot Camp, software that lets Microsoft Windows XP run natively on Intel-based Macs.

The software, which will be included in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, is available for download now on Apple's website. Apple will also preview Boot Camp in August at its Worldwide Developer Conference, the company said.

"Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple's superior hardware, now that we use Intel processors. We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement.

Microsoft officials were not immediately available for comment.

With Boot Camp, Intel-based Mac users can choose between running Mac OS or Windows XP each time they boot their system.

The move in this direction began last June when Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that Apple was shifting to Intel-based computers. Apple also said it had been developing Mac OS X with the intention that it would be able to run on Intel chips and PowerPC chips, which was previously the sole processor used in Macs.

In January, Apple released the first Intel-based Macs with Intel's Duo dual-core chip, making the machines two to three times faster than similar Macs with PowerPC chips. Since then, speculation has grown about whether Apple would enable Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system to run natively on its computers.

While Apple has prohibited people from running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple computer, it has never tried to prevent Mac owners from trying to run Windows on their machines. Still, the company has not been a large supporter of the idea. That's something Apple senior software architect Cameron Esfahani made clear at the Intel Developer Forum in March.

Customers, however, have been clamoring to see it happen. There have even been XP-on-Mac contests in recent weeks.

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg wrote in a blog posting today: "This solves a lot of potential holdups to Macintosh adoption. While a group of programmers already has demonstrated that this is entirely possible to do, that method for deployment is more of a clever hack that no sane end user would attempt."

"Overall, a nice tactical move by Apple that will make their platforms and systems much more attractive," Gartenberg added.

Still, Apple won't provide any technical support for the Boot Camp beta, and the company was quick to point out the potential pitfalls of running Windows. "Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it'll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes," the company said in a posting to its website.

The new software, coupled with the tremendous popularity that the iPod has brought to Apple, could bring more people over to the Apple side, some analysts said.

"In short, we believe this news, more than any news in recent memory, provides a critical boost to Apple's ability to gain share in the PC market," JPMorgan Chase said in a report issued today.

Candace Lombardi writes for CNET News.com

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