Why Boot Camp Really Matters

As you will now doubtless be aware, Apple are officially supporting booting Windows XP (and, by implication, Windows Vista, if it ever surfaces) on Intel-based Macs, by providing users with a tool to create a driver CD and partition their hard disk. It also provides a pretty bootloader.

This is good. This is really good. Most obvious, from Apple’s point of view, is the effect on hardware sales, but I do not intend to much dwell on this as it has already been discussed on this very blog. More significant, I feel, is the increase in mindshare for Mac OS X. Here’s why…


Even in these heady days of marketshare heading for the lofty heights of 5%, those who genuinely espouse the Mac are still relatively few. Outside of a few core areas – graphic design, film, the media, publishing, music, academia, etc. – Windows still reigns supreme. Indeed, for many, there is nothing beyond Windows – that is all there is. And while there are many reasons for this, but they do not really bear repeating here, for they should be self-evident to most

One of the key figures in Windows’ dominance is the techie. The bloke in the IT department at your organisation. Maybe he is one of many. He probably isn’t that bright, has rather poor hygiene and doesn’t have a girlfriend. He has an MCSE and probably little else, and for him, operating systems started with Windows 95. Maybe he’s heard of UNIX, probably he hasn’t. In his world, there is no Novell, Linux is for weirdos, Firefox sucks because Internet Explorer is the best web browser in existence, and the Mac…the Mac is just some lame computer for arty types.

But they do make nice hardware. If only Macs ran Windows…

Oh, wait. Now they do.

A few have bragged about this on Slashdot. They believe that they are going to convince their finance departments to pay extra for a laptop (and then a Windows XP licence on top of that) because…because it looks good. And so they can check out Mac OS X at home.

Whilst I doubt that many of their colleagues in accounts are going to be particularly convinced by the merits of a Mac running Windows XP over, say, some run-of-the-mill HP or Dell box, especially seeing as the major benefit – Mac OS X – will only be enjoyed by the user outside work, I really do hope they succeed. It matters.

Consider this:

Our aforementioned techie gets clearance to replace his aging Dell Latitude with a MacBook Pro PowerBook Core. Perhaps he orders it online, or perhaps he goes straight down to one of the shiny Apple Stores. This is nice, this is good. Alien though the environment is to him, it is kinda nice. He’s feeling the Apple love a bit.

So he gets the machine back to work, or perhaps he’s just buying one himself, so he takes it home, and opens it up. Somewhere, something profound clicks. Nice packaging. Very…oh, very good. He switches the machine on; a warm fuzzy feeling. It starts up quicky and soon he is working his way through the welcome wizard.

That done, he loads up Safari – with some difficulty, as he spent some time looking for the Internet Explorer icon – and heads for the Boot Camp web site. He’s burning a driver CD in no time.

Then he comes to partition his hard disk. It’s the most beautiful disk partitioning tool he’s ever seen. (For some, it may be the first they’ve ever used, so this may not be valid, but…) F**k me, this is f**king beautiful. His appreciation deepens.

He inserts the Windows XP SP2 install CD and reboots. Ah, the familiar blue screens of the Windows XP installer – such soothing colours. He is happy, he feels safe. Even more so after the machine reboots and that green field comes up. The one with the cloudy blue sky. We’ve all seen it a million times.

So he’s happy. Windows XP is on and working, he’s just installed Half Life 2…strictly for performance evaluation purposes only of course, because this is a work machine, and it is instanely fast. And the hardware is so, so sexy. This is good.

But wait. There is something lingering. A feeling. He can’t quite put his finger on it. Something missing. Maybe the feeling doesn’t come straight away. Maybe it comes after the taskbar crashes, or fails to list all his open applications, or Windows starts running sluggishly because it is clogged with spyware…

He reboots. It is nice, Mac OS X, isn’t it. Minimising windows, magnification of icons on the Dock, Exposé…Oh my lord!…fast user switching. It’s…beautiful. It’s so…elegant.

He restarts in Windows XP. Hmm. That WIndows 95 feeling. Not good. What was he doing? Oh dear, the taskbar has crashed again…

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Pretty soon, our Windows devotee is soon hooked on the Mac. He successfully logs Mac OS X on to the corporate network. These days he doesn’t reboot very often…

This matters. I cannot emphasise this enough. Whilst, as my snide tone should indicate, I generally have very little respect for these types, I do acknowledge that they are responsible for an awful lot of decisions to purchase Windows out there, be it in the corporate or the home environment. Newly skilled on the Mac, these types will wholeheartedly recommend Macs to their friends and family. It may even spark something in the business world (although I doubt it).

This is a clever move. With Microsoft’s situation of late veering distinctly towards the tragic of late (the EU seem to be suggesting that they won’t even let Microsoft ship Windows Vista until they have completely OKed it), the market is Apple’s to gain.

Now is the time for the tiger to pounce…

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