Ever since Apple announced that it would being using Intel processors, geeks everywhere have been contemplating the possibilities of running Windows on an Apple-built machine.
Some folks just need to run a couple of Windows-only apps and don’t care about performance. Those folks were asking for a Windows-in-a-box kind of experience where a user could run the Windows OS in a single window. VirtualPC did this kind of thing for a while until the G5 processor broke assumptions in the underlying code.
Others wanted a snappier, more real experience and were asking for a dual-boot scenario. This would mean that each time you started your computer, you could choose whether to boot it up under MacOS or Windows. It also means that you’d have to reboot each time you wanted to change your OS. This promises to have better performance as there is no translation layer and the OS is running directly on the hardware. This is a popular request for folks doing higher performance work or for playing games.
As a cross-platform developer, I kind of need both. I need to be able to switch back and forth quickly (which seems to beg for the former solution), but I also need performance for compiling code and debugging (which seems to beg for the latter). So, I’m looking for the holy grail. I’d like a setup where I could run Windows-in-a-box, but that was high performing. I don’t know if and when that might come, but the concept of virtualization seems to be the ticket. This seems to have fewer issues with emulation and translation layers, but presents the possiblity of running multiple OSes as guests of a host OS.
Yesterday, Apple computer introduced Boot Camp. This is their first cut at addressing some of these issues. Their approach is the dual-boot one that requires you to reboot to each OS, but it does allow Windows to take full advantage of the great hardware they’ve packed in the new Intel Macs. Even better, it appears that they may have met the needs of those gamers who want it all in one machine. This PC World article provides reason for optimism. Especially the following passage:
Back in Windows, I got right down to business and installed a few games to put the graphics and sound support to the test. The quick and dirty verdict on performance? Most impressive. Doom 3 and Far Cry both ran smoothly with high-end graphics options turned on.
In both cases, I had to tweak visual settings manually, since the games automatically set themselves to very low settings. Far Cry, for example, autodetected very low settings, but it ran without a hitch when I bumped the resolution up to 1280 by 720, with all visual quality options set to “High.”
I’ll be in the market for a new Intel-based tower Mac this fall. I will be happy to set it up as a dual boot if it means being able to play some new games (Guild Wars, Unreal Tournament, etc.) on the sweet hardware Apple provides.
Welcome to a brave new world!