New Apple software: A 'Window' to boost sales?
Program that lets Intel-based Macs run Windows could help the computer maker boost its teensy market share.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - First Apple announced a partnership with Intel. Now it's running Windows. Talk about a 30th birthday surprise.
Apple on Wednesday rolled out new software that will allow users to run Microsoft's (up $0.13 to $27.77, Research) Windows XP operating system on Intel (up $0.17 to $19.47, Research)-based Macs, a move techies, analysts and long-time Apple fanatics have anticipated ever since Apple announced last June that it would switch to Intel processors.
Called "Boot Camp," the software will let users install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac and, once installation is complete, restart their computer to run Windows XP or Mac OS X. Boot Camp is available to the public in a beta, or test, version, for download on the Apple site.
Apple made the move to appease customers who had expressed interest in running Windows on Mac computers after the company started switching to Intel processors, Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, said in a statement. Apple unveiled its first Intel-based Macs, the iMac and the Macbook Pro, at its annual Macworld event in San Francisco in January.
"We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch," Schiller said.
Mac users running Windows should be advised that doing so will make their computers susceptible to the same kinds of security attacks that Windows users face. Windows users are more heavily targeted for attacks, such as those from spyware and Trojan horses, than Mac users.
"Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC," Apple warns on its Web site. "That means it'll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world." The company recommends that Mac users runnning Windows download the latest security fixes from Microsoft.
Windows move could mean market share gains
Some analysts say the move will help Apple grow its share of computer sales, currently about 2.3 percent worldwide and 4 percent in the United States, according to industry tracker IDC. By contrast, the Windows operating system runs on about 90 percent of PCs worldwide.
Analysts say Apple stands to gain market share because it now offers a Windows option for people who want to use Macs but still need to run Windows for certain work applications.
"We all touch Windows at work or at school, whether we like it or not," said Shaw Wu, an analyst with American Technology Research.
Wu called the move "a game changer," adding, "A lot of people buy an extra machine just to have Windows, not because they want to run it, but because they don't have any choice. They say, 'I use Windows at home, and Windows at school – why should I go buy a Mac?' This gives them a reason."
Wu added that Boot Camp will allow Mac users to run Windows "natively," meaning they won't need "translation" software such as Microsoft's Virtual PC to run PC-only programs. That program was designed so that Mac users could run the occasional Windows-only program.
"It solves a lot of potential hold-ups for Macintosh adoption. Mainstream users who are looking to buy a computer are going to take a second look at Mac," Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said.
For its part, Apple said it will not provide support for installing or running Boot Camp, nor will it sell or support Microsoft Windows software. The Boot Camp program being offered now is "preview" software available on a trial basis for a limited time, Apple said.
But Apple won't really boost its potential to gain market share from PC users until it starts selling Macs that have Windows pre-installed, said Samir Bhavnani, principal analyst in the mobile electronics and computing group at independent research firm Current Analysis.
"It's not easy for the average user to install an operating system," he said. "If (Windows) came pre-installed on the Mac, that's where the big threat is."
Bhavnani said Apple's move to reach out to Windows users is a promising step toward increasing the Mac's market share, noting that the iPod's popularity exploded once Apple made its iTunes software available to Windows users. But he thinks the number of people who actually go out and buy XP to install on their Macs will initially be small.
The final version of Boot Camp will be available as a feature in the newest version of Apple's forthcoming Mac OS X, "Leopard," which Apple plans to debut in August at its annual developer conference.
When it made the announcement at its developer conference last year that it would switch to Intel processors, Apple said it would not do anything to prevent users from running Windows on Intel-based Macs but that it would not support those users.
Some Apple enthusiasts created their own solution for running both Windows and OS X on Intel-based Macs, but Jupiter's Gartenberg said the techies ended up building a solution "only a hacker could love."
"This version from Apple creates a mainstream solution," said Gartenberg. "It's something that would probably take about an hour for the average user" to install.
Microsoft is expected to debut the latest version of its Windows operating system, Windows Vista, next year, and Gartenberg expects that Vista will be able to run on Macs.
Jupiter's Gartenberg does not own shares of Apple. Wu does not own shares of Apple, and his firm does not have banking ties to the company.
Apple's remarkable comeback story: More here.
Could Dell's Alienware deal lead to more? Click here.