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Embrace of Windows buffs up Mac’s appeal for IT

XP support makes Apple hardware a viable choice, say IT managers

By , Linda Rosencrance
April 7, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple Computer Inc.’s development of software that lets Intel-based Macintosh systems run Windows XP natively met with the approval of several Mac-friendly IT managers, who said this week that the embrace of Microsoft’s operating system will make it easier to deploy Apple hardware.

Until now, Mac users who needed to run some Windows applications have had to do so in emulation mode using tools such as Microsoft Corp.’s Virtual PC, which exacts a serious performance toll. But Apple’s Boot Camp software, which was released for public beta testing with little fanfare (see "Update: Apple unveils software that lets Macs run Windows"), enables Windows XP to run on the new Macs just as it does on desktop and laptop PCs.

Boot Camp creates a hard-drive partition for Windows XP and lets users choose between it and Apple’s Mac OS X operating system each time they start their computers. The dual-booting capability “definitely makes the Mac more attractive,” said Micah Lamb, a microcomputer support specialist in the IT services department at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Lamb said via e-mail that Baylor has routinely had end users who preferred Apple’s hardware to PCs but needed Windows to run applications central to their jobs. Boot Camp will let them have it both ways, he said.

In addition, the new software essentially makes the Mac two computers in one, Lamb said. “You can buy a traditional Wintel box and run Windows only, or you can buy a new 'Mactel' box and run both Windows and Mac OS X.”

John Halamka, CIO at Harvard Medical School and CareGroup Healthcare System in Boston, said the medical school has about 4,000 Macs and a roughly equal number of Windows-based machines.

Now students and faculty members can choose “the best tools for their specific needs,” Halamka said. Users who have tried the beta release of Boot Camp have reported that it makes Windows XP applications run “blazingly fast” on a Mac, he said.

Not everyone is sold on Boot Camp, though.

“It’s not as neat and clean as it might sound,” said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. in Wayland, Mass. “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.”

Depending on how users format Windows XP on their Macs, they may or may not be able to read and write data between the Windows and Mac OS X partitions, Kay said. And businesses still have to buy a Windows XP license from Microsoft for each system that Boot Camp runs on, he noted.

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