Apple's Boot Camp: Innovation or Gimmick?
I'm a long-time Windows user. How long? Back to the 80s when PageMaker needed a runtime version of Windows to load on PCs. You might then think that I have some kind of affinity for Windows and the boxes it runs on. But you would be wrong. Fact is, Windows itself is neutral at best, annoying at worst, and historically the hardware it runs on is totally banal. But you see, that's just the way I like it.
This is something that many Mac users just don't understand about us Windows folks. Essentially, we just don't give a damn about the user experience. The work's the thing. Make the enabling technology fast, cheap and reliable and then have it fade away so we can get something done. I'm reminded of Colette, the French writer, who had a stunning view of the Mediterranean from her office but when it was time to write, chose to face a wall in the other direction. For me, anyway, Windows is that wall.
From that perspective, I always assumed Apple's "switch" campaign was geared more to Mac users, to reassure them that we Windows droids spent our every waking hour trying to dream up ways to dump our PCs and join the Mac community. I may have missed it, but I don't recall hearing the sound of a thundering herd of Windows users tearing down the doors of their local Apple Store. And yet, with the release of Boot Camp, providing the ability to install and run Windows XP on Intel-based Macs, we're presented with a reworked version of the same premise: if we can only get these dummies to try OS X, they will drop Windows and never go back. There's something inherently arrogant and condescending in that pitch that demonstrates a lack of respect for the majority of computer users on the planet. This is reinforced by much of the text on Apple's Boot Camp page, such as "Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it’ll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world." I guess there are still a few Mac faithful who believe that OS X is innately secure.
Time will tell but I think history will see this more as yet another fascinating gambit on the part of Steve the dizzying business strategist, than as a tectonic platform shift. Really, if a Windows user craved a Mac, they'd just go out and buy one. Most households already have multiple cars, televisions and computers—what's one more box? The same holds true for business. But the dual-boot approach conjures up nightmare support scenarios for battled-scarred IT veterans, so there's little chance of this initiative having much impact in the office, even if Microsoft decides to provide support for Mac-based Windows, something which it has not yet done.
What about in a Mac-based design environment? I know designers who keep Windows systems around for occasional use, simply for the ability to run Windows-only graphics apps, as well as test Web sites for Explorer compatibility. If Windows apps indeed run as smoothly as promised (which remains to be seen), the dual-boot option could make such tasks simpler. But bouncing back and forth between operating systems runs counter to current graphics and design production workflow thinking, for which even having to leave the confines of a suite is increasingly deemed counter-productive. Just ask Quark how difficult it is to thrive as an essentially self-contained application.
Would this be useful for service bureaus with occasional needs to output Windows files? Maybe, if the environment was rock-solid. How about situations in which designers are forced to use PCs at work but prefer the Mac environment? Such a box at home would potentially let them continue their office work (although there have been reports of problems running Microsoft Outlook, the PC-standard mail app), while spending quality time with OS X. At least until next year, that is, when the Windows world embraces Vista—no word from Apple on whether that will ever run on Mac hardware.
Beyond these relatively modest scenarios, I can't see much appeal for current Mac designers. Perhaps I'm missing something here, so I'd very much like to hear from both Mac and PC designers who see a dual-boot system in their future. I'll be happy to collect these for a future post entitled: Top 10 Reasons Why Designers Like Dual-Boot Macs.