Apple Offers Tool To Let Intel Macs Run Windows XP

Called Boot Camp, the software helps users set up a dual-boot Mac. Apple said Boot Camp provides an assistant application to create a hard-drive partition for Windows, burn a CD with the necessary Windows drivers and then install Windows XP from an installation CD. Once the installation is finished, users can run Mac OS X or Windows when they restart their Mac.

Boot Camp is available as a free download from Apple’s Web site. Apple said the final version of Boot Camp will be a feature of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the next major release of the Mac OS, which is slated to be previewed at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in August. Apple released an update of OS X, version 10.4.6, on Monday.

Apple’s move to enable dual-boot capability wasn’t unexpected. When the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker unveiled its plans for Intel-based Macs last year, some Apple VARs and industry observers said they wouldn’t be surprised to see the company eventually offer some way to run Windows or even Linux on the new Macs. In addition, momentum for a dual-boot Mac has been building as individual projects to create a Windows XP-capable Mac have sprung up in the Mac community.

“People were already able to hack into this [to run Windows on Intel Macs]. Apple coming out with its own solution just legitimizes it and makes it more real,” said Sonny Tohan, CEO of Mac Business Solutions, a Gaithersburg, Md.-based Apple specialist.

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Boot Camp gives Windows PC users more incentive to switch to the Mac, Tohan added. “With a lot of the [PC to Mac] switchers, one of their bigger concerns was that VirtualPC never really worked the way it should have. The performance wasn’t there, and it wasn’t an inexpensive solution. It was kind of pricey. But now, they can take the Windows license they already own and install it on [their Intel Mac] machine or go out and buy an OEM copy of Windows XP, and now you have the best of both worlds.”

Though Boot Camp could lure some Windows PC users to the Mac platform, so far it doesn’t appear that Apple aims to aggressively promote Windows capability for Intel Macs. The company said it won’t provide support for installing or running Boot Camp and won’t offer Windows software.

"Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple's superior hardware now that we use Intel processors," said Philip Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing at Apple, in a statement. "Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch."

Boot Camp requires Mac OS X 10.4.6 or later, the latest firmware update, at least 10 Gbytes of free space on the startup disk and a blank recordable CD or DVD, as well as a single-disc version of Windows XP Home Edition or Professional with Service Pack 2 or later, Apple said.