Apple has announced a public beta of an application they call Boot Camp that allows owners of their Intel Macs to easily install a copy of Windows XP. Previously the domain of hackery and jiggery-pokery, Apple has officially sanctioned the installation of Windows onto their hardware. The application is in public beta and allows users to install legitimate full copies of Windows XP Home or Professional (not MCE, multi-disc, or upgrade copies). While not the virtualization that some had been hoping for (running Windows apps on top of OS X), this, at least, uncomplicates the current process.
Last month a team of hackers known only by the names of Narf and Blanka successfully won a user-run contest that offered up US$13,000 for the first person who could sucessfully manipulate Windows XP and Apple"s new Intel hardware so that users could install the former onto the later. While the contest was technically "won," the process was probably far too complicated for the average user, and even required that the user have access to a PC (kinda defeats some of the point, right?). Apple"s new process seems to be as easy as you"d expect, complete with a nice "Boot Camp Assistant" to walk you through the entire process.
According to the information posted on the Boot Camp site, installing Windows XP onto your existing Intel Mac is as easy as having the disc available and adjusting a slider to non-destructively resize your current HFS+ partition to set aside room for Windows. The assistant also burns a CD for the user, full of Windows devices drivers for your Intel Mac so that you can use all the important parts of the machine (wireless, audio, Bluetooth, networking, brightness controls, and most importantly the eject key). Some of these features were previously unavailable on the hacked together installs of Windows XP. Even though, there are several features which will not currently work with a Boot Camp install of Windows XP:
Even after installling the Macintosh Drivers CD, the Apple Remote Control (IR), Apple Wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard or mouse, Apple USB Modem, MacBook Pro"s sudden motion sensor, MacBook Pro"s ambient light sensor, and built-in iSight camera will not function correctly when running Windows.
This is a nice surprise from Apple—considering the April Fools let down we all suffered through—and signals that Apple is very open to what users were obviously demanding (users raising a significant amount of money for something should always be a big, honking clue). The page is rife with warnings about running Windows on your Mac and plenty of disclaimers about Apple not having anything to do with Windows XP:
Word to the Wise: 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.
Macs use an ultra-modern industry standard technology called EFI to handle booting. Sadly, Windows XP, and even the upcoming Vista, are stuck in the 1980s with old-fashioned BIOS. But with Boot Camp, the Mac can operate smoothly in both centuries.
It looks like Apple may be willing to run with this new ability and fully leverage it as a selling point. BootCamp makes Apple the only hardware manufacturer that can boast that they support running just about every modern operating system on a single machine. Will Apple extend this program to letting users install any compatible operating system they want? I know several Arsians who"d be interested in triple booting their machines into OS X, Windows XP, and Ubuntu. Apple indicates on the product page that Boot Camp"s technology will be integrated into the upcoming release of OS X, 10.5 or "Leopard," and I"m willing to bet that Apple markets this new advantage heavily when the time comes.