Hell freezes over, again: Windows on Macs, with Apple’s help

NY Times: Apple Allows Windows On Its Machines. Apparently Apple pays attention to its user community. Following the hack contest to get Windows running on the new Intel Macs that ended with a $13,000 prize and a successful hack, Apple has announced beta availability of Boot Camp, a free download that enables installing Windows XP on Mac OS X and switch-booting.

Looking at the Boot Camp page, it’s a little bit fiddlier than the average grandmother would want to mess with, but still really straightforward for a utility of this kind. The utility helps you to partition the hard disk (which is required for this kind of switch boot) and burns a CD with Windows drivers for the appropriate Mac hardware. Interesting note, though, that the Windows XP install might not find the right partition and could accidentally delete your Mac partition… After that, the switch-boot mechanism appears to be exactly the same one that enabled booting into OS X or OS 9 back in the early days of Mac OS X Public Beta and 10.0: hold down the option key at start time and choose the appropriate partition.

And I think it will perform the same function for new Mac OS X users: it will provide them with a safety net so they can gradually transition off Windows and onto their new machines. The question is, will it be good for Microsoft, good for Apple, or good for both? For Microsoft, it probably means that Virtual PC will never be ported to Intel Macs—though running multiple virtual machines is a very different usage scenario from switch booting, it may not be a common enough scenario to justify the investment. But Microsoft may get a lift in Windows XP license sales. And Apple should see a few more Windows users buying their hardware, lured by the prospect of totally cool, totally compatible hardware.