Linux users and movers and shakers at LinuxWorld here were more bemused than anything else by Apple's surprise announcement that it will be supporting Microsoft's Windows XP on its Intel-based Macs, in addition to the Apple Mac OS X.
Linux, which can run on Intel's EFI (extensible firmware interface), was a relatively easy port to the Intel-powered Mac. In only a matter of weeks, Linux was running on the new Macs.
Microsoft, on the other hand, pulled back from supporting EFI in Vista recently. Now, with Apple's Boot Camp, users will be able to choose between XP and Mac OS X at boot time.
One LinuxWorld attendee, who is a J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) middleware developer for a Fortune 500 company, wondered why Apple would make such a move. "Why should an app developer write for both Mac OS X and Windows if he doesn't have to?" he asked.
Kevin Carmony, CEO and president of consumer Linux desktop distributor Linspire, thinks he knows the answer: "Steve [Jobs, Apple's CEO,] makes money from selling Macs and iPods. Apple is a hardware business. He doesn't care what runs on them.
"If this expands Apple's market, and I think it will, that's all for the good," he said.
As for what the move might do to the burgeoning Linux desktop market, Carmony doesn't think it will have much, if any, effect. "Macs are high-end, high-price systems. Linspire's systems start at $199," he said.
In addition, "95 percent of Windows users have never installed Windows. Users use the operating system that the machine boots with," said Carmony. "I don't care how many people download Linspire or buy our boxes in the stores. What I care about is how many people bought a computer with Linspire on it."
Thus, Carmony doesn't believe this move by Apple will make that much of a difference. What would make a difference, from where he sits, is if Apple made it possible to run Mac OS X on any Intel-based PC.
Jeremy White, CEO of CodeWeavers, the company that uses Wine to enable Linux users to run Windows applications, was surprised by Apple's move. "Yah, pretty radical," said White.
CodeWeavers has been working to bring Windows applications to Intel-based Macs. Since Mac OS X is based, in part, on the open-source FreeBSD operating system, this was a logical move for CodeWeavers.
Now, however, White said, "sadly, it'll take a bit of the buzz out of our own Mac product launch [which is coming soon], but what the heck, we compete with dual booting on Linux OK."
He's said he's "not sure" what the overall effect Apple's move will have on CodeWeavers and the Linux desktop, but "I hope it means more people buy Macs; I crave a world with far more OS diversity than we have today."