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Windows on Mac Q&A - Revised July 8, 2006

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If the Mac can run Windows, doesn't that provide a disincentive for companies to produce MacOS X software?

That's the billion dollar question, isn't it? There is no doubt that Apple's release of Boot Camp has produced mixed opinion regarding what it could mean for the future of Apple and the future of the MacOS.

Optimists view Boot Camp as an opportunity for Apple to sell Macs to those who would consider buying an Apple system if they could still run Windows when they need to use a Windows-only application or play Windows-only games. Perhaps some think that Windows users could buy an Intel-based Mac, and start by running Windows as always and slowly begin using, and ideally appreciating, the advantages of MacOS X over time.

Numerous people share this view, including the DaringFireball blog, where the author argues in an in-depth and well written piece that Boot Camp:

Extinguishes several of the qualms that prevent many would-be switchers from actually getting off the fence and buying their first Mac. Namely, the "I'm not comfortable switching to a computer I'm wholly unfamiliar with" rationale. Boot Camp gives switchers a comfortable out if they wind up not liking or in any way regretting their switch to MacOS X: they can use their Mac as a bona fide first-class Windows box.

As more people buy Macs, optimists believe that developers will produce new Macintosh software to profit from the swelling numbers of Mac users who will want applications to run while using MacOS X.

Pessimists, on the other hand, think that Boot Camp is a disaster for the Macintosh software market and Parallels Desktop for Mac, VMWare Fusion, and CrossOver Mac are even worse. People with this viewpoint tend to believe that companies will stop or reduce the amount of Macintosh software that they release and instead instruct Mac users to install Windows if they need to use the applications that their company offers.

In a well-argued piece in his NewtonBlog, James Newton-King worries that Boot Camp will make it harder for developers to profitably produce MacOS X software if they have to compete with a large number of Windows programs that will also run on the Mac. Referring to a theoretical software developer, he ponders:

Is it worth him to continue making software targeting OS X given its small install base and the increased competition from the comparatively cut throat world of Windows applications?
Apple hardware is now special. It can run on both Windows and OS X. But by the same logic that also means Windows software is special because it can run on both types of hardware.

As more people run Windows and Windows software on their Intel-based Macs, pessimists fear that developers will produce fewer Macintosh software titles. If this were to happen, in turn, additional people could be forced to run Windows on their Macs to access needed applications, and the MacOS could become less popular.

If you want to read through a huge number of opinions regarding Boot Camp, you might enjoy the Boot Camp Commentary pages on the always excellent MacInTouch.

As with all speculation, only time will tell whether or not Apple's decision to make it easier to run Windows on Intel-based Macs will help or harm the Macintosh software market.

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