Windows 8 on a Mac: why Microsoft should write its own Boot Camp

Apple designs some of the best PC hardware you can buy, and its designs use the same parts as a Windows PC. Yes, you can run Windows on a Mac, but the experience is substandard. For Windows 8, Microsoft needs to replace Apple's Boot Camp software with its own.

My ZDNet colleagues have gone gaga over the 2011 MacBook Air. Christopher Dawson calls it “a pretty incredible computer.” James Kendrick says it “epitomizes what mobile computers should be” and will become his primary computer. After only a week, Zack Whittaker admits he has “fallen head over heels” with his.

Among Silicon Valley journalists, MacBooks are ubiquitous. Even in Redmond, I’m told, some senior Microsoft executives consider Macs the perfect hardware on which to run Windows.

And indeed, they’re right. Intel-based Macs—and the new MacBook Air in particular—are built from the same parts that make up a standard Windows PC. The trouble is, they don’t run Windows 7 all that well. For that, you can blame Apple’s Boot Camp software, which runs the machine’s disk subsystem in legacy IDE mode and installs a messy glop of generic drivers that leave much of the hardware’s performance untapped on Windows.

Later this year, when Microsoft gets around to releasing a beta of Windows 8, a lot of tech reviewers are going to want to try the new OS on Apple-branded hardware. If Microsoft is smart, they’ll make that easy. How? By writing their own version of Boot Camp to optimize the Windows 8 experience for the underlying hardware.

What would a Microsoft Boot Camp include?

  • It would boot natively from the Mac’s UEFI firmware. Windows 7 will not boot natively using UEFI on a current Macintosh, as dedicated Mac hackers have discovered. That can easily be fixed in Windows 8.
  • It would offer a versatile disk management utility and its own boot loader so you can choose whether to install Windows 8 alongside OS X (a la Boot Camp) or to wipe OS X and use Windows as the exclusive operating system.
  • It would install up-to-date drivers and utility software for the Apple hardware, including full Windows 8 gesture support for trackpads and other input devices.
  • It would include the full collection of Windows Live apps that connect to complementary Windows Live services (SkyDrive, in particular) when you sign in with a Windows Live ID.

A clean installation of Windows 8 on modern Apple hardware would be an ideal showcase for Windows 8 and an ideal test bed to compare Windows 8 performance with that of OS X Lion—something that no one has been able to do until now. And with no crapw… sorry, I mean, with no third-party software, Windows users would finally have a standard against which to compare the performance of designs from other OEMs.

I know Microsoft is capable of delivering its own Boot Camp. Hell, some of their best engineers would probably kill for the opportunity to work on this project.

If this option were available, I’d probably buy a MacBook Air and run Windows 8 on it. How about you?

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