“How’s that work?” I hear you ask. Surely people use the Mac OS because they’ve made a choice not to use Windows or a Linux distro. And surely people who have fallen under the spell of the Mac shun Windows like the plague. Not so. Apple has realized that there are a growing number of Mac users who still want to be able to dip into the Windows ecosystem every so often.
Apple must have known this for some time. Parallels for the Mac is a fantastic application that gained a considerable amount of popularity among Mac users. Parallels is the ultimate virtualization tool available and it beats VMware Workstation for Windows hands down. The latest version of Parallels (version 3) makes Workstation seem utterly primitive. The success of Parallels showed that Mac users wanted to be able to leverage the Windows platform.
Enter Apple with Boot Camp. Boot Camp isn’t a virtualization application in that it allows you to run Mac OS X and Windows simultaneously; it’s basically a fancy boot manager that allows you to install Windows alongside the Mac OS. But if you only want to dip into Windows every so often, it’s fine, especially given the price ($0). Boot Camp allows people who have chosen the road less traveled to still dabble in the Windows ecosystem every now and again – whether that be for the reassurance of a familiar environment, gaming or a key piece of software that they don’t want to give up or replace. Boot Camp allowed people to have their cake and eat it.
Boot Camp became an overnight hit.
But there’s a catch. Boot Camp is beta software and it will expire later this month when Leopard is released. While users will still be able to boot into their Windows install, they won’t be able to make any changes to the partition or create a new one.
Boot Camp won’t be offered as a free download for existing Mac OS X users (even though we know it works just fine), and knowing Apple it’ll be darn hard to tweak the software to work on earlier versions of OS X. The only way that you’ll be able to get your hands on a full version of Boot Camp will be to buy Leopard. If your Mac won’t take the new OS or you can’t afford to pay for the upgrade…tough. Go to the nearest Apple store as quickly as possible and upgrade.
The Boot Camp pre-release program isn’t so much a beta test as an elaborate preview program designed to get Mac OS X users hooked on the product so that Apple can yank the rug from under them when Leopard comes out. In a way, Apple is counting on Microsoft’s dominance in the OS market to sell Leopard. Ironic, really, considering that Apple labels Windows as buggy and a security risk. I guess where there’s a profit to be made, it’s OK to sell out. In the corporate world there’s no such thing as a free lunch and Boot Camp is no exception.
Next page: An alternative to Boot Camp
But if you don’t fancy giving any more of your cash to Apple in order to upgrade the OS, there is an alternative. Rather than go for a boot manager, the sophisticated choice is to choose virtualization instead. Instead of paying $120, or whatever Apple will charge for Leopard, give Parallels $50 for a copy of Parallels Desktop for Mac.
This allows you to run Windows on the Mac without any rebooting or messing about with boot managers. Also, you’re not restricted to Microsoft and the Windows OS, because on Parallels you can also run Linux distros. If you’re a Mac user and you’ve not taken Parallels for a spin, you really should because it really is a fantastic piece of kit. One of my favorite Parallels features is Coherence mode, which allows you to run Windows apps right there on the Mac desktop. You can also copy and paste and drag and drop between Windows and Mac applications, a real bonus for people who are really planning to leverage Windows applications on their Mac. While Boot Camp gives you a way to run Windows on a Mac, Parallels allows you to get real work done.
If you’re currently making use of Boot Camp, here’s what I suggest you do. Download Parallels and take it for a spin. My guess is that you’ll never look back. That way, if you decide to upgrade to Leopard you’ll do so based upon the merits of the OS and not because you want to continue making use of a free Boot manager.