Apple announced TODAY the availability of Boot Camp. This is software that allows Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP.  That’s HUGE.

For all of us that need or want Windows, we will be able to boot up our Macs and simply choose at startup the Mac OS or Windows XP. Of course, you supply the Windows software, a full version of XP Home or Pro, SP2 or later.  Boot Camp is to be a built-in part of Apple’s next generation operating system known as Leopard, due out in early 2007, I believe, or before. I’m going to try it when I get a little break from the road, hopefully next week and I’ll update you further.

Update 4.26.06 – I installed Boot Camp – with ease – about two weeks ago.  Installation went as advertised.  Of course, I needed a REAL Windows XP disc, the latest incarnation with SP2, which is NOT included.  Remember, Apple does not provide (understandably) anything but the means to use Windows, not the Windows operating system or other Windows software.

I formatted the Windows portion of the hard drive (part of the installation process) in FAT32.  This limits the size to under 32GB, but it offers compatibility with the Mac side for file sharing.

Apple provides the drivers needed to make Windows and other Windows software operate on the Mac.  I also installed Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003.

Since this is NOT the Mac OS, but truly a Windows computer when operating using Microsoft Windows, I also installed my preferred and recommended-to-you anti-virus software for Windows, NOD32 from Eset (buy it and download it at http://www.nod32.com/), the best anti-virus software you never heard of, for as little as $39 (http://www.nod32.com/purchase/index.php).  In addition, I had to add the usual, recommended FREE anti-spyware software, Microsoft’s Windows Defender in beta (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=435bfce7-da2b-4a6a-afa4-f7f14e605a0d&displaylang=en), Spybot Search and Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html) and Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware Personal (http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/). Yes, really ALL THREE. Hey, what do you expect?  It’s a Windows computer!

It’s important to recognize that Boot Camp is in beta, so it is NOT finished. Yet, it works quite well.

I also installed Firefox, the best browser right now for Windows computers, and, some say, for Macs (http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/).  I will still need Internet Explorer for some other things as I discover them.  I also loaded and enabled Microsoft Update (http://update.microsoft.com/), a comprehensive program that scans the computer for Microsoft software, including the operating system AND such things as Microsoft Office, and automatically downloads updates as they become available. I like it!

Next, I installed Google’s FREE Picasa software for organizing, sharing and minor tweaking of digital photos.

I then installed a cool little program I like for the Mac and Windows called PopChar. This little $30 program (try the FREE trial) makes all the characters in all your fonts immediately available. I find it much better than Windows’ Character Map, an accessory you may not even know exists.  As a writer, I need access to those characters, and with PopChar, I get it with a click or two to call up the PopChar window, select the font or leave it on the one in use in Word, for example, then click the character to insert it where the cursor is in my Word doc.

iTunes and QuickTime Pro were next, and then came several others. Quicktime Pro is not only an easy and popular video player, but the $30 Pro version is what I use to encode videos so they are suitable for sharing on the Web (using H264 encoding) but also for one-click encoding for play on my iPod.

I’m trying a Windows-only beta of Packet8’s Softalk, a computer-based Internet Telephony tool that operates right from your broadband-enabled computer.  Use either the built-in speakers and mic, or plug in a headset.  Works great on my MacBook Pro!

The message here is that Windows works like, well, Windows. I’m using it now to write this update in Word from the original document that I dragged and dropped from the Mac’s documents folder to the “NoName” Windows drive’s documents folder.

What does not work, yet?  Remember, this is BETA software, so it’s not yet finished.  It will be part of the next generation of the regular, everyday Mac OS, codenamed and likely forever called Leopard.  On my MacBook Pro, the iSight camera is not yet operational under Windows, nor does the Mac trackpad’s cool two-finger scrolling work. In Windows, it’s just a single-click trackpad, so I need to use an external USB two-button mouse for full functionality!  There’s just one delete key, for deleting to the left, and hitting that key does not delete like the normal Windows delete key. Deleting needs to be done from the menu at the top of the screen.

There are other idiosyncrasies that require work-arounds, but, all in all, it’s just great and it’s going to get even better.

What about speed?  I noticed no perceptible slowdown when in Boot Camp.  Everything just worked and worked well, with the exceptions noted.

Now, instead of having to grab a Windows computer to perform some necessary task in Windows, I simply select Windows as the startup disc and then click Restart.

Would I buy and recommend a new Intel Mac and use Boot Camp? YES!  Sure, it would be nice if I could literally switch operating systems while booted in both, but that slows down the processor a bit, as I understand it.

Boot Camp allows computer users to install ONLY what is needed in Windows that can’t be done on a Mac, and that might keep the Windows system leaner, cleaner, longer.

I’m loving this new capability that increases the value of all the new Macs to everyone who wants or needs the best of both worlds.

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