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ATPM 12.05
May 2006




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by Wes Meltzer,

Yes, Drill Sergeant!

I don’t know but I’ve been told,
Windows XP’s very cold.
I don’t know but it’s been said,
Redmond’s software’s made of lead.

In 1997, Steve Jobs invited Bill Gates to speak at Macworld Boston, in which Gates and Jobs publicly agreed to collaborate on software. This elicited significant displeasure from the crowd, understandably, but guaranteed Apple that the Office suite would continue to be available for Macs. It’s more than likely that this deal is what saved the Mac, first and foremost. But when Jobs said the following words, the audience groaned:

[A corporate relationship] has stood out as a relationship that hasn’t been going so well, but has the potential, I think, to be great for both companies. And I’d like to announce one of our first partnerships today, a very meaningful one, and that is one with Microsoft.

They jeered Steve, in shock, when he announced that Internet Explorer would be shipping as the default Mac Web browser. Not to mention, when he brought up the satellite video feed of Gates on the projection screen…. Well, you could hear the boos echoing off the rafters. Gates, to his credit, just shrugged it off.

Oh, how the Macintosh ecosystem has changed in the intervening nine years.

Almost a month ago now, Apple released a public beta of Boot Camp, software that allows you to start your Intel Mac in Windows XP. This is unfortunate for those who chipped in to the $13,000 prize I wrote about last month, but Apple’s solution is, for obvious reasons, somewhat less of a hack. This functionality will be built into 10.5, according to Apple.

This took just about everyone by surprise. My general feeling, and I’m sure I wrote about this but couldn’t Spotlight it, was always that Apple wouldn’t stop you from booting Windows but wouldn’t go out of its way to support it. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber just about nails it when he says, “after just a few hours, it now seems so…obvious.”

Huh? I’m still getting used to the idea of buying a Mac that can boot Windows. On the one hand, it would mean I could finally sync my Windows Mobile 5.0 device with my computer. On the other hand, it would mean booting Windows.

I’m not the only one torn about booting Windows either. “The Joy of Tech,” a Web comic, nailed my feelings exactly with a hilarious strip using the Boot Camp interface and another that ponders the existential question of why a Mac user would want to use Windows. Codepoet ponders the future of Mac software, with easy dual-booting available (and concludes that it’s safe), and Paul Stamatiou suspects Apple is going to steal Windows users.

My fear is that this feels a little like that UPS commercial with the oracle­ you know, “Well, I can’t compete with that.” Thankfully, OSx86 Project’s founder, Mashugly, disagrees with me. He thinks this is a way of resolving the conflict between Apple and Microsoft while leaving the door open for more market-share growth. And Jason Snell, blogging for Macworld, takes down USA Today’s Andrew Kantor for his column suggesting that Boot Camp might cause Apple to start losing OS X users to Windows by selling dual-booting machines. Andrew’s point is that Apple is trying to steal Windows users by giving them a computer that can do both, not the other way around.

Oh, and Slate’s Paul Boutin all but cries at the thought of Windows XP on a Mac, since he would really prefer an OS X that boots on grey-box PCs.

Boot Camp lets you buy the most expensive computer and load it with inferior software. Thanks, Apple. Thanks a lot.

But wait—what if Apple offered the opposite deal? Instead of a disk that allows you to boot Windows on a Mac, what about a disk that lets you boot OS X on any Intel-powered PC? I don’t want Windows on a Mac. I want OS X on a PC. Dedicated hackers can already do it themselves. The only thing keeping everyone else from loading Apple’s OS on a Vaio is a free disk—and Apple’s blessing, of course.

I think it’s safe to say Apple is never going to make the mistake of licensing its operating system again (see this Gruber analysis). Sorry, Paul.

The remaining open question is what Boot Camp will look like in 10.5. There’s quite a lot of speculation right now that Apple wants to implement virtualization, so you don’t have to reboot, especially after the release of Parallels Workstation, which harnesses the Intel chip’s virtualization support to do just that. RealTechNews’s Michael Santo thinks that’s a better strategy than dual booting. And, somewhat unfortunately for the likelihood that this will happen, so does Robert Cringely. Because Cringely is predicting it, I’m putting the odds at four to six—and coining a new award for this month: the Cringely Award, for speculative Apple development least likely to take place. (You may remember my last award, the JFK Shot by LBJ Award, from March.) This month, that award is actually going to John Dvorak, PC Magazine’s venomous and invariably wrong columnist, for predicting that Apple will use Boot Camp to become a Windows PC vendor.

And, for your monthly schadenfreude, I’d like to note that not all is perfect in Boot Camp land. This month’s reason why you should stick with OS X: Apparently, there’s a risk your Mac might not be able to reboot back into your preferred operating system. Ouch. The Unofficial Apple Weblog says, “Being stuck with Windows is your punishment for installing Windows (that last one was a joke)!”

Fall Out!

  • Many of you have noticed that John Gruber is probably my favorite Mac pundit. But we all have even more of a reason to support his excellent writing. As of April 20, he is no longer an employee of Joyent and is supported solely by his work on Daring Fireball. Membership, which gets you a full-text XML feed and also XML of the Linked List, is only $19 a year, or $29 to get you a nifty T-shirt. I heartily encourage you to join, especially if, like me, you rely heavily on the Linked List to keep you informed and entertained.
  • In recognition of John Gruber’s entry into an entirely new class of Mac punditry altogether, in which he is no longer a technical amateur, I want to honor those who do a beautiful job of amateur Macintosh punditry in his tradition. So in this column I am awarding the inaugural John Gruber Award, for best amateur punditry, to Panic Software’s Steven Frank. He wins for his entry about tech complexity and the way certain products may be getting too complex. Congratulations. And no, I am not giving him the award just because he’s a fellow Portlander.
  • Jason O’Grady’s case, Apple v. Does, has been appealed to the California Supreme Court. The question, as outlined by the EFF’s FAQ: Can Apple subpoena Jason O’Grady’s e-mail, through his ISP, in connection with the effort to find out who leaked what Apple claims are trade secrets? O’Grady has his take on the experience; and Gruber has an analysis of the situation, although I think he’s a bit too generous to Apple here. I’d be pissed if I were in O’Grady’s position.
  • Engadget has a great feature from April Fool’s Day called “30 years in Apple products: the good, the bad, and the ugly.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll recognize lots of products that even you knew no one would buy when they were released. My favorite? The Portable, of course.
  • Good news for my fellow student-age readers without summer jobs yet: Adium is now a Google Summer of Code mentoring project, according to the Adium Blog, which means that you can get paid to make Adium a better application. Hint: I will love you forever if you get AIM A/V support working, so I can really have One AIM App to Rule Them All, etc.

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Reader Comments (2)

Dave Thompson · May 1, 2006 - 14:37 EST #1
I've tried (and tried, and tried... induct) to get my Windows Mobile devices to synchronize with my Mac. In frustration, partly with the devices (it IS Windows and does crash) and partly with the lack of synchronization, I recently started using my Tungsten T3 again. Then I went out and bought (on trial) a Blackberry.

I have PocketMac synchronization working reasonably well. It's not as good as the Mark/Space tool with PalmOS, but it's workable. It isn't trivial nor for the faint of heart.

I really want a convergent device and the Blackberry is the closest I've come to date. I should have looked at them before, but didn't.
Wes Meltzer (ATPM Staff) · May 1, 2006 - 15:12 EST #2
Hi Dave,

I'm fortunate that I don't need to synchronize the device right now, because the calendar function isn't that important right now. But it will be once I have a Real Job, instead of just being a college student. Hopefully either Mark/Space or PocketMac will support WM5 by the end of the summer.

My experience -- after buying my Axim -- is that it's a fantastic way to surf the Internet from my living room couch, or use Skype, but it's a terrible multipurpose device, especially without a QWERTY keyboard.

So far, I think I'm going to avoid a Blackberry: The forthcoming Treo 700p will have unlimited EV-DO service for $25-$40 a month plus voice, which is a lot more multipurpose than just unlimited email, and there are already PalmOS push-email solutions. ... Plus, it'll sync.

Good luck with your Blackberry! I'm still open to the idea.

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