Apple today introduced Boot Camp, new public-beta software for Mac OS X that lets users of Intel Macs boot directly into Microsoft Windows XP. While the move may contradict previous statements by Apple, the company said they still have no intention of fully supporting Windows on the Mac.
“After we released the Intel-based Macs we had a lot of customer requests asking if it’s possible to run Windows on those machines,” Brian Croll, Apple’s senior director of Software Product Marketing, told Macworld. “We decided we would help it along by creating Boot Camp.”
The software, available today as a public preview version of a feature from the forthcoming Mac OS X Leopard, includes an assistant application to aid with drive partitioning and the installation of Windows drivers for Mac hardware.
The partitioning process is done in Mac OS X and features a slider to let users determine the amount of space to give to Windows. Apple said for the safety of the users, they automatically leave 5GB on either side, so data does not get destroyed.
Changing the size of the partition later or removing it altogether is also supported functions in Boot Camp.
“If you want to go back to one partition for the Mac, you just rerun Boot Camp and that comes up as an option — we make it very simple,” said Croll.
The one catch for users may be the format of the Windows partition. Macs can read and write to FAT32 drives, but it can only read the newer NTFS formatted drives. Windows cannot natively read Macintosh formatted HFS drives, although third-party utilities will allow this.
When you run the application, Boot Camp prompts you to burn a CD, which contains all of the necessary drivers to run networking, Bluetooth, graphics and other functions in Windows. After the Windows install is complete, you insert the disk and it automatically installs the drivers.
Previously Apple executives had suggested that the company “wouldn’t stop” owners of Intel-based Macs from booting into Windows XP. Boot Camp, which requires Mac OS X 10.4.6, a single-disc install of Windows XP or Windows XP Home, and at least 10GB of free space on the startup disc, somewhat changes that: now Apple is giving them a leg up on the process.
However, Apple made it very clear that Windows would not be made available on future Macs and the company would not support the operating system.
“We are not going to sell or support Windows,” said Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing David Moody. “You have to bring your own Windows.”
Time will tell if running Windows natively on a Macintosh will help sales of hardware, but Apple believes it eliminates one obstacle for many users.
“This will really help a lot of folks make up their mind whether to move over to the Mac,” said Croll. “We think this makes the Mac even more appealing for all those Windows users who are considering the switch.”