Canada takes closer look at Windows on a Mac

Canadian Apple resellers are, for the most part, pleased with Apple’s decision to give Microsoft users the boot — Boot Camp, that is.

“IT managers have been very comfortable with their decisions for the past couple of years,” said Ron Paley, president of Carbon Computing, which has two locations in Toronto and Kitchener, Ont. “Their decision has always been (to go with) Windows (on) Intel. The fact that Mac went Intel to begin with is a huge boost.”

Months after bringing Intel-based Macs to market, Apple on Wednesday announced public beta software called Boot Camp that allows Intel-based Macs such as the iMac G5 to run Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system platform.

Mark Cohen, vice-president of Divine Mac in Vancouver, said IT wants to be able to use other platforms than Windows in the company’s environment.

“All these IT guys want to use other solutions,” said Cohen. “They don’t want to be tied to Windows. This way they can run multiple OSes on one very well-built box. What happens is Bill (Gates) sells more licenses and Steve (Jobs) sells more boxes.”

But Douglas Wegg, sales and marketing at Toronto Apple reseller North Star Computer, said while this is great news for PC users, Mac diehards won’t be switching to Windows anytime soon.

“Mac users don’t seem to be too happy about it,” said Wegg, who has been perusing various message boards to see what the Mac community’s reaction is. “As a first step I think it will be great for Apple. Apple’s always been in the position of helping its consumers.”

The beta is a result of a contest called that was started by self-professed Mac lover Colin Nederkoorn of Houston, Texas earlier this year. Boot Camp, which is available for download at, allows users to run Windows XP natively on an Intel-based Mac system. By doing this, users don’t lose any processor performance benefits that they would with an emulation or virutalization model.

Boot Camp will be a feature in “Leopard,” Apple’s next major release of Mac OS X that will be previewed at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in August. Apple, however, explicitly said in a press release statement that it will not sell or support Windows. Microsoft has not officially released anything regarding its plans for supporting Windows on Mac.

Boot Camp provides a graphical step-by-step wizard to create a second partition on the hard drive for Windows, to burn a CD with all the necessary Windows drivers and to install Windows from a Windows XP installation CD.

Cohen of Divine Mac, however, said while it was fairly straightforward to download, there were issues with drivers.

“Even though it ran very well there were issues where you had to hunt down drivers from various third-party manufacturers such as the driver to enable the audio chip,” he said.

Likewise, Wegg of North Star Computer also downloaded the beta onto a couple systems at his shop but found that it wasn’t as easy as point, click and you’re done.

“We did two hours of install and we still have to go back and do all of the driver updates because it’s open for the plague of viruses that comes with the PC laptop,” said Wegg, adding that they will have to install an anti-virus software program to help prevent attacks common to the Windows platform.

When the installation is complete, users can select whether to run Mac OS X or Windows when they restart their computer.

“You have to re-partition the hard drive because the file structures are different,” said Tim Bajarin, president of analyst firm Creative Strategies in Campbell, Calif. “You’re loading Windows and bringing it in as a standard Windows platform as if it was running on a standard x86 laptop. When you boot in Mac, you’re booting only to the Mac platform and the Mac file structure and they don’t talk to each other.”

This is a potential snag. Windows XP doesn’t support Mac’s default file system, while Macs don’t fully support XP’s NTFS file system. This means that users might not be able to open up Mac files while in Windows. While Boot Camp is initially intended for XP, Vista, which was pushed back to January 2007 for its release, will use a totally different file format than XP.

Aside from obvious advantages such as the ability to run Windows-based applications on Mac hardware, users, especially on the business side, will benefit from a stable operating system, said Paley.

“Unix is supported open source software,” he said. “Linux is unsupported open source software. Unix has been the backbone of Sun servers for a decade.”

Similarly, Wegg said the Mac OS X operating system is very secure, with less than one per cent viruses on the Apple desktop.

“To go and switch to a platform that’s not very secure and you have the potential of damaging your whole system, I doubt Mac users are going to,” he said. “This is move is to get more of a section of the market they don’t have and help them out.”

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