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MacIntel – Dual Boot This

January 12, 2006

There’s a lot of complaining out there about the new Intel-based Macs not being able to “dual boot” Windows. Apparently Apple is using a new firmware specification that XP’s boot loader can’t handle (although Windows Vista (currently in beta) can.)

Um… So?


I’m sure everybody’s different, but personally I don’t have much use for “dual booting” Windows and Mac. It’s not like I often or ever need to use one or the other; I need both.

For me, the real home run will be being able to run Windows in a window, under OS X. At pretty much full native speed.

If I can do that, then I can happily go along using OS X for most everything I do (as I do today), and occasionally bring up a Windows window to do those few things I still have to do in Windows (mostly test to see if stuff works right on Internet Explorer.)

As I said, everybody’s different. But I don’t think I’m all that atypical of a user. Most people spend much or most of their time in common applications — a web browser, an e-mail client, a word processor, a spreadsheet.

OS X already runs all of those quite well. In fact, if you were a Microsoft Office user under Windows, you’d probably be quite at home in Microsoft Office for OS X.

What gets most of the people I know, the thing that keeps them on Windows, or (as in my case) keeps a secondary Windows machine on the desk is those one or two applications that are still Windows specific.

In my case, it’s Internet Explorer. A friend of mine is stuck with an accounting system that has one piece that’s just enough different between Windows and Mac versions that she has to have a Windows machine around to run it once a month.

For people in this position, dual booting is academic. Give us the ability to live in OS X, and run our occasional legacy Windows app in a window.

The good news is that this is inevitably coming. VMWare has publicly announced that they’re working on a version to do this.

It’s still an open question as to whether Microsoft will modify (which has got to mean mostly just scoop out all of the emulation stuff) their “Virtual PC” application to provide this functionality, but they’d be crazy not to — if they offered a version of Virtual PC that took advantage of running on a native Intel processor, they could pretty much be guaranteed to also sell a Windows license to virtually every Intel-based Mac owner out there.

To be sure, Apple’s (current) 4% of the market isn’t a big whoop when you already have most of the other 96%, but hey — it’s almost found money.

Besides, if suddenly Mac is the computer for everybody who just needs to run Windows occasionally, that 4% could grow a lot over the next 18 months.

In any event, the ability to run Windows apps at close to native speed in an OS X window is such an obvious winner that somebody — maybe a lot of somebodies — will be offering it real soon, whether it’s VMWare, Microsoft, or one of the real talented third party developers out there.

As far as dual booting goes? Meh…

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