Apple, undoubtedly the experts at keeping absolutely everyone in the dark when it comes to product announcements, came up with another surprise overnight when it unveiled Boot Camp, new software which will allow their new Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP.
Running XP on a Mac has been somewhat of a quest for tech geeks around the world ever since Apple's new range of computers started using Intel processors earlier this year. Boot Camp essentially allows Intel-based Mac owners to create a second partition on their hard drive for Windows, burn a CD with all the necessary drivers, and install XP from an installation CD. From that point on, users can choose to run either Mac OS X or XP from start-up.
And while I don't think the small but fanatical base of Mac users around the world are exactly itching to install XP on their shiny machines, Apple's move may prove seriously tempting for many Windows users, such as those who need to use Windows applications for work. But there's one major Windows community who will undoubtedly be questioning their ongoing commitment to Microsoft's OS -- gamers.
I know many gamers who stick with Big Uncle Bill's clunky operating system purely because Macs aren't exactly known to have a vast library of games at its beck and call. These same gamers often look forlornly at their Mac-wielding mates and their groovier-than-thou machines, and wonder why they're stuck with their beige-coloured HP or Dell boxes (obviously Alienware owners have no such envy). Now, seemingly, they'll have the best of both worlds: Apple's smooth looks and performance, with the ability to switch to Windows at any time for a session of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
We're yet to do some serious game testing of Windows on a Mac (we'll report more on this soon), but on paper Apple's machines look beefy enough to handle most gaming tasks. With PCI-Express ATI Radeon X1600 graphics processors, 128 MB of GDDR3 video memory and up to 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo processors in the iMacs, they're decent gaming platforms. Of course, games enthusiasts who like to customise their systems and upgrade their hardware (such as graphics cards) at the drop of a hat may still prefer the tinkering freedom a PC allows. But then there are the legions of more casual gamers who only upgrade every several years or so -- as long as they can play what's available at their local games shop, I'm sure they won't be fussed that they're not running off the latest gear from ATI or NVIDIA.
So will Apple win over some Windows gamers with Boot Camp? I think it's safe to say that the answer is yes. There will be plenty of gamers out there who have been looking for an excuse to switch to Macs, and Apple has now given them a compelling reason to do so. We may well be at the cusp of another Apple resurgence. And this time, it won't be iPods leading the charge.
Are you thinking of switching to Macs now that they can run Windows? Do you think Macs will give you a good gaming experience? In your view, what are the advantages/disadvantages of gaming on an Intel-based Mac? Tell us your opinion at firstname.lastname@example.org.