Apple’s Boot Camp: Hard to get excited about

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh, Microsoft
April 5th, 2006 • 1:48 pm

So Apple has just released the beta version of a new software product called Boot Camp that allows Intel-based Macintosh computers to run Windows XP natively.

I obviously cannot give this a try, since I don’t have an Intel-based Mac handy. But I must admit that this announcement is somewhat underwhelming. it was quite predictable that, sooner or later, Apple would come up with something like this.

But I was really hoping for a more elegant solution that would allow a Windows system run natively under Mac OS X—à la Virtual PC, but with all the performance benefits of direct access to the Intel processor.

As it is, the Boot Camp software forces you to actually restart your computer and choose which operating system you want to boot with.

I don’t know about other Mac users, but personally I just hate having to restart my machine. One of the main benefits of Mac OS X is that it can stay up for days or even weeks without requiring a restart. I simply cannot imagine going from this to having to restart my computer each time I want to use a Windows application.

Of course, I am sure it would be a much bigger engineering challenge to get Windows XP to run in a separate window under Mac OS X. But I am afraid that would be the only truly elegant solution for Mac OS X users hoping to be able to run a Windows application. In that respect, Virtual PC, in spite of all its drawbacks, remains a better alternative.

Except that, of course, Virtual PC does not run on an Intel-based PC. Which leads us to the only really important question: What is the future of Microsoft’s Virtual PC now that Apple is switching to Intel processors? Will they simply drop the product altogether? Or will they actually try to meet the new challenge and provide the truly integrated solution that Boot Camp is not?

As far as I can tell, Microsoft has not announced anything. All they say is this:

Virtual PC for Mac Version 7 is still the best emulation solution for users who have PowerPC-based Macs, but it does not run on Intel-based Macs. We are working with Apple to determine the feasibility of developing Virtual PC for Mac for Intel-based Macs. Virtual PC for Mac is highly dependent on the operating system and hardware and will require additional development to run on Intel-based Macs.

In other words, they haven’t committed to anything. And the product might stay in limbo for a long time.

9 Responses to “Apple’s Boot Camp: Hard to get excited about”

  1. MacDesigner says:

    I feel the same as you. If XP or eventually Vista was able to boot directly under OS X similar to the way rosetta or the classic environment works, the news would be more exciting. I would hope this to be a stop gap measure until virtualization became a reality, then many would be able to boot multiple systems at the same time. With vitualization, many legacy window applications that prevent people from buying a Mac would be eliminated.

    The real question to ask is how does this affect mac software development. The Mac OS is what makes the experience, running windows on a Mac doesn’t make windows run better, it just makes Apple more of a pure hardware manufacturer. So how do you convince developers to make a Mac OS version of software if they can turn around and say just run it under windows. While I feel this may help to increase Mac share of the market place we have to be careful of the ramifications. I have faith Jobs and Apple have thought this through and considered these possibilities. Perhaps that is the reason it was released without much fanfare.

    These are interesting times to say the least.

  2. Jussi says:

    I don’t think it should be Apple’s place to provide virtualisation software for running other operating systems. In my opinion it should not be a core feature of an operating system and if it was it could lessen developers’ intrest for the operating system. According to some this was part of the problems of OS/2 but it is hard to tell how it would affect OS X.

    According to some news a company called Parallels will be providing a solution soon. We’ll see how it does when/if it ships.

  3. sjk says:

    I don’t know about other Mac users, but personally I just hate having to restart my machine. One of the main benefits of Mac OS X is that it can stay up for days or even weeks without requiring a restart. I simply cannot imagine going from this to having to restart my computer each time I want to use a Windows application.

    Frequent cold restart dual-booting would quickly become unbearable. But if you can safe sleep OS X and hibernate XP then switching between the two could be somewhat less painful since you’d resume saved sessions under each OS.

    Perhaps that is the reason it was released without much fanfare.

    Also, perhaps, because it’s a beta release.

  4. danridley says:

    One fairly important reason for many users (especially users in the iMac target market) to run Windows is games. Games run terribly under virtualization, no matter how good the virtualization is. So a dual-boot solution is definitely a good thing to have, whether you also have virtualization available or not.

    I’m guessing that virtualization is coming soon, at least from third parties and possibly from Apple too.

  5. Andrew Aitken says:

    I’m not sure boot camp is aimed at existing Mac users as a solution to run windows apps. I think this is aimed at squarely at switchers.

    Most windows using friends I know like the way Macs look, but are put off by the Mac OS. Boot Camp takes away one reason for not buying Apple hardware for these people.

    It’s also a foot in the door of business customers who require windows, at least now Apple could be considered as a possible IT provider.. This may increase Apple’s very profitable hardware sales. The genius part about this, is that if a customer buys a Mac to run windows, Apple don’t have to support it!

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    I agree that game performance is a good reason to reboot in Windows—although I am not entirely sure that, with time, we won’t be able to run most games under virtualization. There will always be games that push the most recent hardware to the limit, but there are also lots of games that can run properly with 2- or 3-year-old hardware, and therefore might run just fine under virtualization.

    I am not a big gamer, but when I want to play a game I don’t particularly want to have to reboot my computer. I want to be able to play a game for 10 minutes and then return to my work. This, to me, is more important than the ability to play the very latest game that requires the best possible OS performance.

    In other words, I still hope that someone will soon offer the ability to run Windows applications under Mac OS X, whether it’s Apple or a third party.

  7. danridley says:

    When I think of games that one plays for 10 minutes, I tend to think of Bejeweled, Tetris, board and card games; things that don’t tend to push the hardware as much. Games that need more hardware are generally the more immersive ones, therefore geared toward longer play sessions: first-person shooters, real time strategy, RPG, etc.

    That’s a generalization, of course, and not always accurate. But I think for most gamers it’s probably 90% accurate, and it leads to the argument that the reboot time doesn’t matter as much when you’re dealing with a game you’ll be playing for a couple of hours instead of a few minutes.

    (The inverse is an annoyance, though; it’s harder to pop out of the game for a minute to check your e-mail if you’ve dual-booted.)

  8. Pierre Igot says:

    True, but like you said, it goes both ways. You might also want to switch from gaming to work for 10 minutes. The “hibernation” features (saving the entire computer’s state instead of having to actually boot) might provide a solution to this particular problem. I guess we’ll have to see.

    The biggest question for gamers will be to see how good the graphics performance is on the Windows side. There might also be reasons to suspect that the Mac gaming industry might be deeply affected by all this. When you think about it, once you’re inside a game, the underlying operating system usually matters very little, especially for “immersive” games. What’s the point of porting such a game to the Mac when all it takes to run the Windows version on the Mac is a reboot?

  9. sjk says:

    In today’s news: Parallels Workstation 2.1 Delivers First Virtualization Solution for Intel-powered Apple Computers.

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