Boot Camp

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Running Windows XP on a (Intel) Mac is not a particularly easy process for the non-techie. For the most part, most people would never even attempt it. And even if they would, it wouldn’t be particularly nice, as there aren’t any drivers for the some of the mac-specific hardware. Boot Camp is set to change all that. It’s a small piece of software for Intel Macs that makes the process of installing Windows XP on Intel Mac hardware an easy process. The surprising thing? Unless you haven’t already figured this out from the link, this is from Apple and will show up as a native feature in the next version of Mac OS X: Leopard. This is in no way a small thing. I myself never believed that dual-booting would never be able to take off as a mainstream feature, and I still don’t think it will, but Apple has made the process considerably easier then on PCs. This will only benefit Apple.

Once again, I turn to John Gruber (aka Daring Fireball), and find that what he has to say is quite enlightening:

If Apple had released Boot Camp a few days earlier on April 1, I suspect most people would have thought it to be a gag, à la Google’s 2004 April 1 announcement of Gmail (“1 GB of email storage for free? This is a gag, right? Right?”).

But now that it’s here, Boot Camp does seem like an obvious move for Apple, no? It’s a low-risk, no-lose proposition for them, and but the potential upside is huge.

The old equation — decades old — is that most computers ran Windows (or, if you go back far enough, DOS) and some other ones, the ones from Apple, ran Mac OS. As of today, the new equation is that all computers can run Windows, but some, the special ones from Apple, also run Mac OS X. (Including other PC operating systems like the various Linux distributions doesn’t really change the equation.)

The distinction between these two equations may strike you as subtle, but the difference is potentially momentous. The point is that it recasts Macs from being “different” to being “special”. Instead of occupying a separate universe from that of PC hardware, it’s now a superset of PC hardware. Instead of choosing between a Windows PC or a Mac — which decision, as I wrote recently, for most people is more accurately stated as “choosing between a familiar Windows PC or an unfamiliar Mac” — you now get to choose between a computer that can only run Windows or a computer that can run both Windows and Mac OS X.

Of course, this is something that I’ve understood since the announcement that Apple was going to switch to Intel chips, but Gruber says it quite nicely. But this is where things really get interesting:

Boot Camp is not about world domination or a direct frontal assault on Microsoft’s Windows monopoly.1 No matter how cool Boot Camp is, it’s not even going to make sense to most people out there, let alone actually get them to buy a Mac. You try explaining “boot loaders” to your mom.

But Boot Camp is inordinately appealing to the higher end of the market, the enthusiasts. Your typical civilian (i.e. non-enthusiast) has no need — or at least sees no need — for dual booting. They use email, they use a web browser, they want something useful to happen when they plug a digital camera into their USB port. Whichever OS comes on their computer is good enough for this.

All Apple needs to do to be spectacularly successful with its computer business in the next few years is to take just a few single digits of market share away from Windows. Whatever market share number you peg the Mac at — 2 percent, 5 percent, or anywhere in between — you must keep in mind that it (that is, the Mac user base) is not comprised of a random sample of just any 2-5 percent of computer users in general. It’s a very specific self-selecting segment of the market: people who care about their computers, and who are willing to pay more for something better.

So even if Apple only has 2 percent of the total market today, it’s 2 percent from the best part of the market. And if they add another percentage point or two or three, that’s going to come from the juicy part of the market as well. (I’d wager a large sum that Apple’s share of the profits in the total PC industry are significantly higher than their share of units sales.)

The next logical step would be to have virtualization technologies in Leopard, allowing you to run Windows Software right in Mac OS X. Gruber talks about this in his article as well. Check it out.

A Life In The Day Of Benjamin Andre by OutKast from the album:
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
4 Stars


Written by Kumaran Vijayan

April 7, 2006 at 10:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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