Update: Apple unveils software that lets Macs run Windows

Apple released software today allowing users to boot Windows on the latest Macs

Apple Computer Inc. today unveiled a public beta of Boot Camp, software that allows its latest Intel-based Macintosh desktop and laptop machines to run Windows XP natively (see "FAQ: Macs running Windows, what you should know").

The software creates a hard-drive partition for Windows XP and lets users choose between the two operating systems at start-up time. It's available now as a free trial beta that works only for a limited time, and it will be included in the next major version of Mac OS X Version 10.5, or "Leopard," which is due out late this year.

“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,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement. “We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch.”

According to the Apple statement, Boot Camp simplifies Windows installation on an Intel-based Mac by providing a graphical step-by-step assistant application to dynamically create a second partition on the hard drive for Windows, to burn a CD with all the necessary Windows drivers, and to install Windows from a Windows XP installation CD.

After installation is complete, users can choose to run either Mac OS X or Windows when they restart their computers.

The software, which Apple released today with little fanfare, is available for free download immediately.

Because Apple is moving to Intel processors, Windows XP on new Macs runs just as it would on laptops and desktop computers built by Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co. and a host of other hardware manufacturers. It does not run in emulation mode using software such as Virtual PC, which exacts a serious speed toll on the operating system.

Apple announced last year that it is moving all of its hardware to Intel chips and began rolling out Intel-based computers in January. So far it has switched its iMac all-in-one desktop line, the 15-in. laptop -- now called the MacBook Pro -- and the Mac mini to Intel processors.

Boot Camp requires an Intel-based Mac with a USB keyboard and mouse, or a built-in keyboard and TrackPad; Mac OS X Version 10.4.6 or later; the latest firmware update; at least 10GB of free space on the start-up disk; a blank recordable CD or DVD; and single-disc version of Windows XP Home Edition or Professional with Service Pack 2 or later.

One analyst called it a "soft jab" at putting Windows on the Mac.

"It's not as neat and clean as it might sound," said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. Depending on how users decide to format Windows XP on their Macs, they may or may not be able to read and write data between the Windows and Mac OS partitions, he said.

In Windows XP mode, users can't see files on the Macintosh side at all, Kay said. In Mac OS X mode, users can read and write files on the Windows side if they're in Microsoft's FAT32 format, but in the NTFS format they'll be able to read them only. Windows users don't tend to use FAT32 any more because it limits the volume of files that can be used, Kay said.

Boot Camp may help to remove an objection that businesses have had to using Macintosh computers -- that they couldn't run their homegrown Windows applications on them. At the same time, it requires them to pay for a Windows license in addition to buying their Macintosh computer, which would limit the appeal, Kay said.

"They've filled a hole here, but it's more of an experimental thing. I don't think it'll change the game that much," he said.

Still, Apple couldn't resist a few digs at Microsoft on its Boot Camp Web site. "Word to the Wise," it said: "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. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes."

Some Mac features won't work because of hardware incompatibilities, Apple said, including its remote control, wireless keyboard and mouse and the USB modem.

See more about the Boot Camp announcement:

James Niccolai of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon