Saturday, April 08, 2006

Apples Can Run Windows!

Apple recently released computers running Intel chips. This was, essentially, hell freezing over for the Mac faithful... at least at the time. Now, Apple releases a program called "Boot Camp" that allows their new Intel Mac to start up Windows XP instead of Mac OS X. Now, all of a sudden, Mac lovers are praising Apple for going Intel.

My view on this is that at the end of the day, computers are about software, not chips. You could have a Chevy Suburban, for example, with a Dodge engine, and you would never know - it would still be a Suburban for all intents and purposes. You can run Linux on pretty much any computer chip out there, and it is still Linux. The same is true of Apple's operating system, OS X.

Actually, Windows is the exception rather than the rule. Every serious current operating system for computers except Windows runs on a variety of computer processor chips. Windows XP, which is the decendent of older Microsoft operating systems like Windows 95, Windows 3.1, and MS DOS, has been hamstrung by these ancestors. Windows XP has to be able to run the programs written for these older operating systems (otherwise, people would not upgrade), and these all ran on Intel chips.

Boot Camp allows you to load both Windows XP and Apple OS X on the same Intel Apple, and choose which one to run. You cannot run both at the same time, which would be the ideal situation. Besides loading Boot Camp, you will need to purchase Windows XP, which costs about $200. Apple will not, to their credit, pre-load Windows on these machines.

Why would anyone want to run Windows XP on a Mac? The only reason is to be able to run programs that only run on a Windows XP machine, like certain computer games, and certain business software. So some people, that may be worth the $200 and the dabble in Apple.

Apple is very smart to not pre-load Windows. Actually, this is a no-brainer. IBM tried to get OS/2 to go big by having it encapsulate Windows, and they paid MS a license for each copy they gave away -- clearly stupid. OS/2 was so clearly superior to Windows that they really didn't need to do that. What they needed to do was pick a few key applications, like Word Perfect and Lotus, and push it home, and market the heck out of it. In '92 they could have killed Windows, but blew it.

As for Apple, Win XP runs everything OS X runs. The tendency for the non-Apple user will be, if they buy one, to boot Win XP. Why not? Their kids are already running it for games. The barrier is the cost of Win XP. The issue is, though, that if you shell out $200, you will want to use it.

So, there are two ways it can go on this: It will solidify Windows, because now it is everywhere, or it will be an interesting footnote in the history of the Mac. I think it is interesting that Apple can do this, and it will boost sales for Apples, and that is a good thing, but now that it is done, Apple should move on (except for Christmas season sales, taking advantage of the Windows Vista delay) and encourage really good software for OS X. Make it so they never want to leave.

At the end of the day, Apple OS X is very close to the point where it can truly replace Windows in the workplace. It already can at home. Apple should push for going the rest of the way. That is why Boot Camp is a potential distraction -- it could move Apple into a complacent mode where they think that users will use OS X daily, and only go to Windows for those things they really need. That will not happen. When the thing you really need is on Windows, you will stay on Windows. Once the things you really need are on OS X, then you will never need to go to Windows again.