It occurred to me as I read all the other reactions – pro and con – to Apple’s Boot Camp announcement that I hadn’t written here about my reaction to it (assuming anyone really cares), which is a little odd considering that the desire to boot both Apple’s OS X and Windows is something I’ve blogged about before. I guess I was so busy writing about the news for the Globe and Mail’s dead-tree edition (the story is here) that I never got around to blogging it.
The bottom line is that I think Boot Camp is a good thing, and an interesting step for Apple to take, but it’s mostly interesting for what it implies about the future rather than what it means right now. In many ways, it’s a natural extension of the move to Intel chips, which coincidentally was also one of those things many people (including me) said was probably just a wild rumour and would never happen. When it comes to booting Windows on Intel Macs, right up until the announcement of Boot Camp most people seemed to think that doing so would be something only determined hackers would be able to achieve. Now anyone can do it, as Paul Thurrott and others including Walt Mossberg have described.
Will people want to do it? Sure they will. I might even give it a shot just to see how it works (Alec says he might too). But let’s face it – rebooting all the time is a major pain in the ass. I do it from time to time to switch from Windows to Linux, but it still bugs me because you have to shut everything down and you can’t move or copy things from one session to another. Like many people, I think the dual-boot option is just a step on the road to true “virtualization,” which will use better software tools and new processors to allow operating system to run side by side seamlessly – at the moment, running things like VMWare and VirtualPC gives you a kind of slowed-down version of the OS you can only use for non-processor intensive applications (in other words, no games).
The real question, of course, is what the long-term strategic implications of the move are. Is Apple planning – as people like Robert X. Cringely argue – to allow anyone to run Mac OS on any old PC eventually? This debate seems to have degenerated into a question of whether Cringley (whose real name is Mark Stephens) is an idiot or not, but for me the issue is what Apple sees as its core business. Is selling the OS its core business, or is the OS just a tool for winning converts to Apple hardware?
For what it’s worth, I think that Apple makes a lot more money from hardware than software, and would be happy to trade smaller sales (or less growth) in the Mac OS for a larger proportion of PC hardware sales – and a better chance of pushing its hardware sales into the living room and home-theatre direction. Kind of like Sony used to be, I guess, except better.