Apple has formally given its thumbs-up to attempts to install and run Windows XP on Intel-based Macs. It has posted a tool called Boot Camp that allows iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini owners to run the Microsoft OS more easily. The company also confirmed the next major Mac OS X release, Leopard, will integrate the twin-OS technology.
The Boot Camp software requires Mac OS X 10.4.6, released yesterday and which has already been hailed by supporters of Windows-on-Mac initiatives as an update that improves the ability to dual-boot their systems. Boot Camp creates a CD with all the Mac-specific XP-compatible hardware drivers then dynamically repartitions the host Mac's hard drive to make room for the XP installation without the need to re-install the native operating system.
It also provides a bootloader to allow users to choose which OS they boot their Intel-based Macs into.
Apple is offering Boot Camp as a public beta, so it remains a 'proceed with caution' utility. But it's still more user-friendly than the third-party solution posted on the web last month. Indeed, the Apple release appears to provide the graphics drivers missing from the system that won a $13,000 prize to get XP on a Mac. Ironically, if Apple had moved more quickly, it might itself have walked away with the bounty.
Either way, anyone who wants to try the code will still need a Windows XP installation disc. Apple confirmed it intends neither to sell nor support the Microsoft OS - it's merely smoothing the path a little for those Mac users who want to run it alongside Mac OS X.
And quite a few do, it seems, particularly those moving across from a Windows box to an Apple-made one. Such a facility is seen by many observers as a crucial move to get businesses buying Macs instead of PCs: it enables them to run Mac OS X to eliminate or at least minimise the security threats they're exposed to under Windows, yet still boot into Windows when necessary for legacy-application compatibility.
Macs also appear, for now, to run XP faster than other machines do.
It's been claimed Mac OS X 10.5 - i.e. Leopard - will use processor virtualisation to run multiple x86 operating systems without the need to re-boot. Boot Camp doesn't preclude such a solution - today's release may simply support one of two approaches the final version of the utility will provide once Macs ship with virtualisation-capable processors. ®