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VARs: Apple's Dual-Boot Tool Shows Promise, Pitfalls
Apple last week released public beta software called Boot Camp, which helps users set up a dual-boot Mac. The tool, available as a free download from Apple's Web site, provides an assistant application to create a hard-drive partition for Windows, burn a CD with the necessary drivers for Windows and install Windows from a Windows XP installation CD that users already own or will buy. Users then can choose to run Mac OS X or Windows when they restart their Mac.
Plans call for the final version of Boot Camp to be part of Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard,” the next major release of the Mac operating system, due to be previewed in August at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco.
Boot Camp gives Windows PC users more incentive to switch to the Mac because they can use one computer to run Windows and Mac applications, said Sonny Tohan, CEO of Mac Business Solutions, a Gaithersburg, Md.-based Apple solution provider.
“This is going to give [Apple] new buyers who have never bought a Mac before,” Tohan said. Business users, in particular, will be drawn to the dual-boot capability, he noted. “Businesses might be running their creative apps on the Mac only and most of their business apps on Windows PCs. Now those guys won’t have to carry around two laptops or have a desktop and a laptop. They can do both [PC and Mac tasks] on one machine.”
Mac customers that needed to purchase inexpensive PCs to handle functions that required Windows apps will no longer have to do so, Tohan said. "The biggest loser out of this is Dell. We've got so many clients who buy Macs to do most of their Mac stuff and then buy a cheap Dell to run certain [Windows] apps that they couldn't run on the Mac. Well, they won't be buying that anymore."
Boot Camp could sway a “huge percentage” of PC users to go to the Mac, said George Swords, marketing manager at PowerMacPac, a Portland, Ore.-based Apple VAR. And apparently Wall Street also thinks Apple's market share will get a boost, he said, pointing to the surge in Apple's stock the day Boot Camp was announced. The Cupertino, Calif., company's share price closed up nearly 10 percent that day.
“All of the fence-sitters who are sick of [Windows] viruses, adware and spyware for the main part of [their computer use] can now do all of that on the Mac side [with Boot Camp]. And for those applications that have to run in Windows, they can do that on the Windows side,” Swords said.
“Having a proper dual-boot machine finally answers the question: Can I get a computer that runs everything?” he added.
Apple, however, said it won’t provide support for installing or running Boot Camp and won’t support Windows software. That could mean problems for users if their Windows apps don’t run correctly on their Macs via Boot Camp, VARs said.
“The biggest issue of all is going to be for end users to understand that when they install Windows on their computer, they’ll be responsible for the support of that,” Swords said.
The lack of support from Apple could be a stumbling block for Boot Camp, since it remains to be seen how smoothly the tool will work in practice for customers, said Apple specialist David Salav, president of Webistix, a Holbrook, N.Y., solution provider. For example, because Macs use EFI technology to handle booting and Windows uses BIOS, "maybe it's not going to work 100 percent," he said.
Boot Camp also may not prove practical to users because they would have to reboot their computers to switch between the Mac and Windows environments, he added.
“I don’t think that people are going to integrate this well into their workflow,” said Salav, who characterized Boot Camp as falling into the realm of “just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.”
“I’m not sure if it serves a useful purpose right now,” he said. “When they create a scenario where you could have fast user switching between the two operating systems, then that would be good.”