Boot Camp FAQ

April 16, 2006

Just about every computer nerd knows the big news: the new Intel-equipped Macintoshes can run Windows via a utility, Boot Camp, that allows the user to choose which OS to use at boot time. I happen to know a thing or two about computers, and especially Macintoshes. This leads a few misguided souls to look to me for advice. Here are some of the questions I have been asked, along with my answers.

  • Why would you want to run Windows XP (or Vista) on your Macintosh? There’s really only one reason: to run Windows applications that aren’t available for the Mac OS. It might be a hot new game, it might be a specialized business application. Whatever it is, you won’t have to ditch your Mac to run it now.
  • So this is like Virtual PC? Not really. It’s different in two ways. First, it’s very fast. In fact the performance is exactly like running Windows on an actual PC. Second, you can’t run both environments simultaneously like you can with Virtual PC; you have to reboot to switch from one to the other (This is changing as we speak, however. Already some enterprising companies are delivering add-on products that allow “virtualization,” or running both environments at once. There is even speculation that Apple will help this process along in its next release of the Mac OS.)
  • Do you think a lot of Windows users will buy Macs now? Some people seem to think so. They say it would only take a small percentage of Windows defectors to give Apple a significant increase in their marketshare, and the theory is that being able to boot into their familiar Windows environment in a pinch will remove a significant psychological barrier to making that switch. I myself remain no more than cautiously optimistic about how many people will actually switch because of this development, however.
  • Will a lot of Mac users switch to PCs after having been exposed to Windows on their Macs? When pigs fly. On the contrary, I think this development will solidify the Mac base. One reason for switching to PCs has been removed. If they need to run a Windows app, no problem! But no one boots windows for the fun of it, not even PC owners! As the Daring Fireball wrote, Windows is a software ghetto that Mac users will only visit out of necessity.
  • Do you think Microsoft is worried/surprised/pissed off? Hell no. Microsoft is as pleased as anyone. Any Mac user who wants to run Windows has to actually buy it, remember. Cha-ching! Besides, Apple’s real competitors are Dell and other PC makers, not Microsoft.
  • So are you going to run Windows on your Mac? If so, what’s the first Windows software you’ll run on it?When fortune brings me an Intel-equipped Mac I will absolutely install Windows on it. The first software to run in Windows will probably be a virus or some other piece of malware. But after that, there is always that one nasty business application that runs only or best in Windows. And there is always that one cool game that runs only or best in Windows. On both accounts I will be set.
  • Will Apple sell Windows with their computers now? I don’t think so. They don’t want to support it. Microsoft, on the other hand, may seize this opportunity to discontinue Virtual PC and sell a special “Mac Edition” of Windows, bundled with other niceties that owners of Apple computers will appreciate.

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  1. Its a no brainer. Especially when you consider that you can also use your built in wireless as well as firewire. Sweet.

  2. “Windows is a software ghetto…” Huh? Are you serious?

    By definition, a ghetto is a smaller semi -selfsufficient community located within a larger majority community. It’s the MAC worshipers that are the ghetto community. At least Boot Camp gives you folks the chance to come out and experience a wider world. And now, I’m thinking I might actually buy an MAC product. Then, I can experience the advantages of life in the big city, as well as the ghetto.

  3. A fine point. I have used the word “ghetto” to describe the Macintosh platform before, as a matter of fact. In this instance, however, I meant to indicate something about the relative desirability of the locale as opposed to its size. Windowsville maybe the larger area geographically, but it’s squalor and filth keeps us Mactown users inside our gated community. When we visit the other side it will be out of necessity and not a pleasure trip.

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