10 April 2006

BootCamp and why the Mac Faithful are waivering

While Apple’s stock price is currently up over 10% since it announced Boot Camp – allowing Intel-based Macs to boot either Mac OS X or Windows XP – there have been numerous rumblings from the Mac Faithful. Ars Technica Guest writer Chris Foresman sums up the reasoned arguments well in this posting.

And, basically for the Mac faithful, Boot Camp fails the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) test. Heh, we’re already converted aren’t we? And, we’re all used to running machines that we reboot once in a blue moon. Maybe we would want to run a Windows app once in a while. But then probably we’d want the data somehow integrated into our Mac apps, and we don’t want to stop everything we’re doing. Virtualisation is the route we’d like to see (and not spend any more of our IT spend on supporting Redmond). Indeed, many fear this tactic will reduce the amount of development specifically directed to the Mac platform. In the end, Boot Camp could be a negative for us – not a neutral.

But there are some who worry more – the beginning of the end of Mac OS X for instance is their conclusion. Perhaps we can thank the infamous John Dvorak in a February column for planting the seeds of this idea.

I think the conspiracy theorists are wrong if they believe the Dvorak rumor. Sure Apple is about hardware, but its whole business model is predicated on vertical integration – the belief that controlling the hardware AND the software is the key to a better user experience. That was the original Mac philosophy – only abandoned when things got desperate by a useless management team, and quickly re-asserted when Steve returned to save the company. That is the iPod philosophy too. The clever part of course is knowing when to open up and how to open up while ensuring your prime directive of ensuring that the better user experience is preserved. Mac OS X is a (the?) fundamental component of that Apple Mac experience.

So, let’s return to the more reasoned arguments against Boot Camp. The reality is that Boot Camp is not for us of course – if we do want Windows, we want it differently thank you very much. Boot Camp (public beta release) is in fact for those people we’ve wanted to convert, but who can’t take that step because they still need the insurance policy that is Windows. They may need it for work rather than home. Or they may need it for a very specific application. Or it might be one family member who must have it. Or it might be for playing games. Apple have, at a stroke, taken away that objection to getting a Mac. They are betting that such people will, at least over time, migrate to using the Mac environment for most of their work (or at least their iLife). Some say Apple will be pleased if people just buy a Mac and run Windows. But I don’t think that’s the case at all – that is not a sustainable strategy and will lead to the Mac software marginalization that some fear. But, if Apple can just get 1% more Windows users around the world to buy a Mac (and ideally use it as a Mac), then that increases the Mac marketshare by around 40%. That can only be good for all Mac users – the faithful included. And that’s why we (the Faithful) should welcome it warmly.

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