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But What About My "Blue-Screen-of-Death"--or should that be "Aqua"?


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April 05, 2006

But What About My "Blue-Screen-of-Death"--or should that be "Aqua"?

Peter Burrows

Like seemingly everyone else, I, too, was surprised by Apple's news this morning with Boot Camp. But while many others see this as a bold declaration of war on Microsoft, I view it as only the first move in what will be a fascinating chess game over the coming months and years. To me, Steve Jobs just pushed forward his first pawn, and it was an excellent first move. Now it's Bill Gates' turn.

I say this because I don't think today's news, in itself, will cause the hordes of Windows users to make the pilgrimage to the Mac. That may well happen in time, but only after Apple has baked Boot Camp into the next release of the MacOS, dubbed Leopard, and--more importantly--until it has accepted responsibility for supporting folks who opt to run Windows on their Macs. Once Apple does that, it could truly crank up its marketing engines to push the Windows-compatibily angle to its utmost. (My idea for a print ad, which I'm very proud of: a minimalist picture of a Mac on a white background, beneath the simple headline: "The Ultimate Switching Machine: Windows Optional")

Indeed, I think this customer support issue will have a huge impact on whether todays news turns out to be a game-changer, or just a fleeting bit of excitement. As in so many things, Apple is trying to have it both ways with its current approach. It is all well and good for Apple to suggest it has released Boot Camp as a response to customers' requests (though it begs the question: what about all those customers who are asking to use their iPods with services other than iTunes--but that's another topic). But the truth is, people are going to run into hardware problems as a result of using Windows. When these unfortunates find that their Macs have been contaminated by using Windows and learn that Apple isn't willing to help them, how much of a favor have they really received?

As such, the first phase of this chess game will come down to how well Apple executes the basics. Does Boot Camp really work as advertised? Is the installation process really a snap? How bad is the performance hit on Windows apps? What unforeseen problems will crop up that drive Boot Camp users nuts? If Apple has done its normally stellar job of rolling out new technology (though some are less stellar than others, it seems), then all will end well. Apple will find that it can support Windows without incurring legions of angry callers seeking profit-sapping support. If this experiment doesn't come off so cleanly, however, I bet Apple will simply stop talking about Boot Camp or developing the technology, and will go back to its current course: trying to take share, sans Windows-compatibility.

All in all, the chessboard is clearly tilted in Jobs' direction. Assuming customers like Boot Camp, it could accelerate Apple's maket share gains. The company has the stores in which to show off the new dual-boot Macs, the Geniuses to hawk them, and the marketing mavens to go after the mainstream buyers--particularly if Apple's designers also came out with new hardware designed to appeal to Windows deserters (Hey gamers out there: what would you like to see from Apple?).

But then, Bill Gates has plenty of powerful moves he can play. So far, Microsoft suggests it will do little to support XP customers who try to run their products on Mac hardware. As many PC owners know, Microsoft and its hardware partners have the maddening habit of pointing fingers at each other whenever customers call for help. If Microsoft, by either its actions or lack thereof, turns Apple's Boot Camp experiment into a hassle for customers, this day may have less significance in the long run than many currently think.

04:12 PM

Apple News

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Kind of curious why you think it's a move against Microsoft other than someone might buy a Mac and start using OSX more than Windows and eventually ditch Windows altogether.

Seems it's more of a shot at the PC hardware companies, especially Dell in the education market where schools/colleges can now buy one machine and boot three operating systems.

Posted by: PXLated at April 6, 2006 10:49 AM

Apple needs to support Boot Camp and will do when it's fully a part of the OS.

They DO NOT want to support that total POS windows, let that particular Millstone hang of Micro$oft's neck.

The main benefit of this is when that lazy, can't be arsed to retrain, overpaid, crash-dependant, "these computers are for the benefit of MY job not the one you're trying to do" IT chief specifies that you can get any computer you like as long as it runs Winblows you can buy a Mac.

After a while we may get excecutives asking exactly why our IT dept can't seem to learn how Macs work depite the fact that they seem to to be far better, more secure, more stable, more productive and more standards compliant when they boot into OSX than when they boot Vista.

They may even ask how come our supposedly WWW standard compliant website can't be accessed from Safari.

Posted by: Limeybloke at April 6, 2006 12:04 PM

Does Boot Camp really work as advertised? YES.

Is the installation process really a snap? YES.

How bad is the performance hit on Windows apps? WHAT PERFORMANCE HIT?

Unforseen problems? NOT LIKELY.

I installed Boot Camp on my MacBook Pro yesterday, and I can honestly say that it works exactly as advertised. It really couldn't be simpler to get XP running.

1) Download and run Firmware update from Apple.

2) Download and run Boot Camp.

3) Use Boot Camp to burn a CD of hardware drivers

4) Use Boot Camp to set up an XP partition(EASY!)

5) Insert XP disc and start installation

6) After installation completes, insert Mac driver CD you burned in step 3 and install the Apple-specific drivers for Windows.

7) Reboot Windows

8) Profit! (heh)

Really, though...the software works perfectly. When you boot your computer, hold down alt/option and a screen pops up that lets you choose between Mac OS X or Windows. Whichever OS you choose to boot loads up and runs completely natively and normally. There are a couple of minor quirks, such as cursor control with the trackpad on the MacBook is quite bad...it's a bit difficult to get the arrow exactly where you want it instead of a few pixels above or below your target. It just takes a very steady hand, I guess. Using the built-in one-button trackpad on the MacBook means that you cannot right-click. Plugging in an external mouse works fine. And Windows shows the wrong time. But if you change the clock in Windows, then when you boot back into Mac OS X, then the Mac clock is wrong!

Overall, though, it seems great so far, if you're like me and have ONE app you MUST use at work that will work ONLY with Windows. At this point, I have mainly just surfed around with IE, tried out the app I need for work (no problemo!) and downloaded a couple of demos of 3D Windows games to see how the PC games would run. It appears that the PC games run just fine! Maybe now I can try out those Half-Life games all the PC guys have been raving about!

Windows XP simply SCREAMS on my MacBook Pro! I've never ever seen Windows run so quickly. The Apple-supplied drivers seem to work fine...wireless networking "just worked".

If you format your XP partition as FAT instead of NTFS, then Mac OS X can read and write on the XP partition no problem. Of course, XP is incapable of seeing the Mac partition...it doesn't exist as far as Windows is concerned. So, I can drag & drop Mac files over into "My Documents" on my XP partition, reboot the computer into XP, and then use those files with my pesky Windows-only work app. Then reboot into Mac OS X when I'm done. That is kind of a PITA, and honestly I think I will only use this temporarily until I can find reliable Virtualization software that runs at native speeds. I'd much rather be able to stay booted in Mac OS X all the time and simply run Windows apps in, well, a window on my Mac desktop...and have the capability to copy/paste things in between the two environments and drag & drop files back & forth. THAT would be perfect, but Boot Camp will certainly suffice for now.

Getting XP running on a MacIntel is incredibly simple for anyone who has ever installed Windows on a PC, downloaded software off the internet, and burned a CD. Aunt Tillie could even do it, thanks to Apple's great documentation that takes the user through EVERY STEP of the procedure, explained in plain English.

Posted by: Matt at April 6, 2006 12:48 PM


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