|Thursday, April 6, 2006
14:31 - We are the Bore; resistance is compulsory
Wow. Even while my IM windows are abuzz with the idea that Boot Camp signifies a stroke of genius for Apple—a slippery slope for people seeking to wean themselves off Windows and move to Macs (I swear, I've never heard so many people at once say "I'm definitely getting a MacBook Pro now")—Lance Ulanoff at PC Magazine has an entirely different take:
Today Apple sanctioned a dual-boot Mac/Windows OS Mac, and gives end users the tools to create such a set up. Is this the beginning of the end of Apple? Perhaps, but as all this unfolds, I feel a little bit like Apple's being consumed, via its own choice, by the Borg.
. . .
With today's Bootcamp announcement, we have Apple giving in to an obvious demand. But company reps also made it dead-clear that while they've built this utility and made it super-simple to use, Apple has no interest in selling or supporting Windows. Right. They do not want Mac Mini users calling them up saying, "Windows isn't running very smoothly on my Mac Mini." That's understandable. Why should Apple's support techs get tied up in a Windows mess?
So Apple is simply acting as an enabler, stopping end users from jury-rigging a dual-boot system. But they're not selling Windows. Until, well, they are. As the Borg were fond of saying, resistance is futile and, in truth, I think Apple has little interest in resisting. Two years from now, end users will probably have the option of buying OSX Macs or Windows Macs.
Jaw-dropping. Here in a world where everybody's sick of Windows and wants to move to a Mac, Ulanoff thinks that Boot Camp is just a move by Apple toward making Windows boxes.
Screw all that investment in OS X and Mac-only software. Bosh to EFI when they could have just used BIOS like everybody else. Fie upon Apple's growing market share, astronomical profits, giddy stock price, and image as the hot rising computer company while Windows is seen as the boring operating system used by one's parents. Never mind all that money on the table as evidenced by people's explicit desire to buy Macs for OS X but keep Windows around as an umbilical cord—Boot Camp is the beginning of the end for Apple.
I guess we can derive some meaning from the fact that his observations are just about dead opposite my own, given the same input data:
Apple told us that they think Bootcamp will help make the Mac more appealing to those thinking about switching platforms and that it will provide –especially when it becomes part of the Leopard OSX upgrade later this year or next— a safety net for people who switch but still want their Windows and Windows apps. There's already considerable proof that dual-booting can work (we proved it here in our labs), and I have every expectation that this utility will work as promised. Actually, does any one else find it odd that Apple rolled out such a utility so quickly? This obviously shows some forethought and planning. The Borg were known to plan too.
No, it's not odd that they rolled this out so quickly. What would be odd is if they'd included a finished version of Boot Camp with the first line of Intel Macs right out of the gate, anticipating the demand for dual-boot machines. Or if they'd responded to the Windows-on-Mac hackers' successes by releasing firmware updates that prevented Windows from running on Macs. No, it's not odd that weeks after dual-booting was big in the news, Apple has come out with a public beta of a toolkit that comprises a) a simple disk partitioner, b) a firmware update with a new bootloader, and c) a burnable CD full of drivers they collected. That isn't all that much magic, all things considered. And it doesn't take years of shadow parallel development, like Marklar, to do it.
If Apple wanted to move to Windows, they could have done so at any time by simply dropping their proprietary hardware and making Wintel boxes like everyone else does. This isn't rocket science. They could be an integrator like any number of other companies, at the drop of a hat. Why on earth would they have gone to all the trouble to move OS X to Intel if they planned to drop it? Why would they be continuing to make investments in technologies like EFI that Windows doesn't plan to support? How does the—and let's be honest here—minimal investment in development that's represented by Boot Camp signal that Apple is getting ready to shift its entire business model to making Wintel PCs in Mac-like boxes?
If Ulanoff would take a step or two up onto the curb and stop huffing the exhaust fumes from all the tech pundits who are jostling for the chance to say "You heard it here first," no matter how kooky the theory of the day, he'd realize that Apple's computer business model—after the Intel switch—is identical to what it's always been. The fact that they've gone to Intel CPUs doesn't mean their computers are any less Mac-like. If anything, they're renewing their commitment to being different, by throwing in with EFI, which is what makes the whole Boot Camp rigmarole necessary in the first place. If Apple wanted to become a Windows shop, there are far more direct ways to do it. Rather, they're shifting to a different CPU supplier, one that just happens to be Windows-compatible. And if it's a choice for Apple between watching thousands of geeks tinker and hack their way to dual-boot Macs so they can play Half-Life 2, and supporting dual-booting in an official capacity so they can explicitly market Macs as being more versatile than Windows machines, the choice is a no-brainer. But that does not mean there is even the first signal from Apple that it intends to chuck its whole thirty-year legacy of demonstrably superior software and a complete whole-widget integrated hardware/software experience out the window just to be one more player in the crowded and stifling Wintel PC market.
Ulanoff is right in thinking that this move will sell more Macs. But it's not because people love Mac hardware but prefer Windows. It's because they want OS X, but they want to bring Windows with them for as long as it'll take them to find a total replacement for everything they use it for. But they'll be spending their time in OS X. That's why they want the Macs in the first place—not the "breathtaking industrial design"—and Ulanoff can't seem to grasp that.
Maybe he should do a poll of Windows-based pundits who think Apple should license OS X for generic PC hardware, and then ask himself what Apple stands to gain from embracing Windows instead. Aside from more inane comments about the "Borg".
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, he can't bring himself to spell "Boot Camp" or "OS X" or any other related term correctly—the true mark of someone who prides himself on his ability to subconsciously rile up the faithful with offhand little maddening details, but which ends up just making him look like an unhip, uninformed fool. I'll bet he spells it "I-Pod", too.
UPDATE: John Gruber's take, naturally, is a whole lot more sensible and demonstrably true. Don't miss it.
The fear that Windows-on-Mac-hardware implies the eventual death or marginalization of Mac OS X is baseless. Sure, third party developers could start using “Just boot into Windows” as their answer to questions regarding Mac support, but this is no more likely to be popular or successful than it was for developers whose OS X strategy was “Just use Classic”.
This is a move of supreme confidence — Apple relishes the comparison between Mac OS X and Windows XP, and Microsoft has shown enough of Vista via its widely-available beta seeds that Apple quite obviously isn’t afraid of that comparison, either.
"Windows is the new Classic." Yeah, I was saying that to people in e-mail before Gruber even posted this. You heard it here first, folks! Heh heh... sheesh.
UPDATE: In keeping with the "Windows is Classic" theme (which, as Gruber points out, would seem to suggest an eventual role for Windows as a fully interleaved, virtualized alternative application mode that works in the same way Classic does—individual layered windows, just no drop-shadows), I wouldn't entirely be surprised if Apple were to sell Windows, or even preload it for business customers, if they should ever decide to really get serious about courting them. But that's really not what Ulanoff is proposing, though the longer one thinks about this the more blurry the line gets.
His choice of words betrays his real hopes and/or fears: Two years from now, end users will probably have the option of buying OSX Macs or Windows Macs. See, he's not envisioning a future with Windows as a ghettoized unsupported alternative to OS X that Apple has made accessible as a generous courtesy; he's envisioning Macs as being something Apple will eventually decide to sell as only Mac OS X machines or only Windows machines, or (as a value-add) both. What's more, he undoubtedly believes that once Apple's sales numbers indicate (as they eventually would) that more customers seem to want Windows than Mac OS X, Apple would make the "sensible" business decision and shelve OS X entirely, making the switch to the Windows PC business that he so relishes imagining. That one little or in his wording speaks volumes.