Love It. Hate It. BootCamp Can Change Your World.

Perhaps I'm a bit late on jumping in on this discussion. But now since some of the dust has settled and users have tested and commented, I feel it's time for me to chime in on just some thoughts, wishes and observations.

Early last week Apple released a Beta copy of BootCamp, a clever little software add-on to OS X that allows Macs with Intel processors to boot and run Windows XP. Apple also released and will support video and device drivers. This means that, unlike Virtual PC, video will run natively using onboard hardware instead of nasty and painfully slow emulation.

How excited am I? Mildly to put it nicely. A few years ago I would have responded with “who care.” As a user I have no interest in Windows and until recently there was nothing I couldn't do with existing Mac software that would have me wishing for a windows machine or better emulation than Virtual PC. Yet also as a user I have always evangelized and helped bring many new Mac users into the Apple camp. Those resistors have been a gnarly if not obstinate bunch. Many just ignorant and seem to gloat in their refusal to move or even acknowledge the benefit of the Mac and OS X. But iTunes and iPods have seen some of even the most stubborn reluctantly put dollars into the Apple till.

But now things are different. Or, at least they will be.

First, for me I've been frustrated at GPS manufacturer Garmin's adamant refusal to support the Macintosh or at least provide Mac USB drivers for their products. In January, Garmin announced that by year end it would support the Mac. I hope they don't cease development in light of BootCamp and other virtualization options for Mac users to run Windows. Until Garmin supports the Mac I must use a Keyspan USB serial adapter in order to get my Mac to recognize that there is a GPS connected. This is because Keyspan provides the driver. Secondly, I must run Virtual PC so that I can run the Garmin MapSource application. MapSource is used to load maps into the GPS hardware and to upload and download tracks, routes and waypoints. At 9600 baud loading Maps into my GPS with the serial adapter and running MapSource on Virtual PC is just not an option. It would take a week to load CitySelect North America. I have been successful, albeit frustrated in downloading and uploading waypoints and tracks. So while Garmin will eventually provide software and hardware support on Mac OS X, until then I would expect to be able to run XP on my Intel Mac (if I had one) and load maps and have a better user experience in running the MapSource software.

Next, for my stubborn and obstinate Windows fans I hope that the new BootCamp and other options will at least peak their curiosity and offer the possibility to live in two worlds — one for working and the other (I think) for playing. Of course, many will cry at the price of the hardware. But if price is an issue so be it. There are those of us who would rather pay for quality, experience and style than opt for the common and generic. Then there are those Windows users who live in fear that their world might not be compatible with the other world should they switch to Mac. Deep down these users fantasize, dream and secretly desire a Mac. But in the open world they harness there desires and opt for the common and generally accepted prudent behavior by settling on a Windows machine. But now, for the first time they can dip into the forbidden world of Mac OS X and play in the quiet of their homes behind lock doors with the privacy where no one can see.

No matter the category of user, I do see that Apple will see a bump in market share. This is good for Mac users and shareholders. I would expect it to be good for developers too. But already there is fear that with the option of dual-booting a Mac in Windows and OS X that software vendors who currently provide two product versions for the competing platforms may opt out of continued Mac development as I speculated with Garmin. The most feared are Adobe with Photoshop and the top game developers. And while ceasing Mac development will arguably reduced development costs and ultimately cost of goods, the message it sends to the Mac loyalists could have potentially harmful side effects. For one, Apple will not provide a copy of Windows with any Mac or copy of OS X. At about $150 per license these are dollars many Mac users would rather put toward native OS X applications or a beefed up .Mac account.

For me, I hope I'm able to use my copy of Windows XP that came with my virtual PC and simply install that on my Intel Mac — when I get one. Until then and the official release of Panther (OS X 10.5) when BootCamp, or whatever name Apple gives it past its Beta phase, I'm going to watch the noise in the development community very carefully. I'll watch Apple's stock, too.

If you've held off on owning a Mac, perhaps this will give you a good reason to come out of the closet. It's so much more fun and simple when you allow yourself to live freely. Go ahead. Be different — but the same.