Joined-up thinking

Apple’s attempts to woo PC users with might make working across platforms on a Mac a realistic dream, says Jason Arber

Now that the dust has settled a bit, we can start viewing Apple's surprise release of Boot Camp - a utility that allows dual booting into Windows XP on an Intel-powered Mac - with a less hysterical eye. While tech-columnist and podcast-pundit John Dvorak is still gaining column inches for claiming that this is the first move in Apple's long-term plan to drop OS X in favour of Mac boxes running Windows exclusively, the general consensus is that Dvorak's theory doesn't really hold water.

For a start, it's doubtful that Apple wants to inflict viruses on its users. Apple likes to control the end-to-end experience, which makes little tasks - like plugging in a digital camera - a dream, and swapping to Windows would allow a third party to control this and potentially throw a spanner in the works. That's just not going to happen.

While no-one outside of Cupertino is privy to Apple's plans, we can only guess at the company's strategy. One of the few things we know for sure is that the final version of Boot Camp will be included in Apple's next major OS upgrade, Leopard. Apple's own Boot Camp page outlines the reason for its existence: "More and more people are buying and loving Macs", and Boot Camp makes this choice "simply irresistible". Clearly Apple is targeting the waverers on the PC fringes.

Apple is betting that once users compare OS X with Redmond's offering they will realise how slick, modern and trouble-free Tiger (and later Leopard) is, especially when Vista (the next Windows OS) keeps losing features and having its release pushed back.

Creative advantages
There was some initial concern that developers may stop developing for the Mac and offer PC versions of their software only, safe in the knowledge that if Apple users want to use their app, they can simply boot into Windows. This may happen in a minority of cases, but Adobe's Bruce Chizen says that as far as Adobe is concerned, "writing directly to the Macintosh operating system is an advantage to the customers and you will see us continue to do so and not work through Boot Camp or the Windows emulator, because we think that will not be good for the majority of our customers."

There are certainly advantages for designers using OS X and Mactels, especially web designers or coders who have to test their work on different platforms. On a Mac running Boot Camp, they'll be able to flick between OS X and Windows. Or that's the dream. No one's going to pretend that rebooting every time you want to check something in Windows is the ideal solution.

This is something that Parallels has remedied with the beta version of its virtualisation software Parallels Workstation 2.1. It allows Windows (and other operating systems) to be run at the same time as OS X without the kind of speed penalty that Virtual PC suffers from on non-intel Macs.

It's rumoured that Apple will include its own virtualisation solution with Leopard, and we'll find out when it previews OS X 10.5 at WWDC in August. If Apple does include that capability out of the box, it'll be bad news for Parallels but fantastic news for everyone else. Even Steve Ballmer, who may shift a few more copies of Windows...

Jason Arber is a designer and co-founder of Email him at