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Have Your Mac and Windows XP, Too

Apple's Boot Camp, a free program unveiled yesterday, allows Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP.
Apple's Boot Camp, a free program unveiled yesterday, allows Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP. (By Justin Sullivan -- Getty Images)

There were some weird moments on the test iMac during my brief evaluation yesterday; for instance, I had to guess that an Apple keyboard's "clear" button would stand in for the Num Lock key. But overall, it looked and acted like any other copy of Windows.

You can't see the Mac side at all from within Windows without buying extra software, but from OS X you can read, and depending on your choice of Windows disk formats, write to the XP partition.

Just having this option should end the uncertainty that some potential Mac switchers feel about the prospect of giving up every piece of software they've known. That quasi-existential dread is gone; if you need to run the one weird Windows-only program your office requires -- or the Windows-only games your kids require -- you just need to reboot, holding down the Option key to choose an operating system to run.

(Some lazy software developers might use Boot Camp's existence as an excuse to avoid developing Mac versions. But smart ones will write software for the operating system already installed, not the one that might be added later. Given a choice of running XP or OS X, how many people who have already bought a Mac really want to spend more time in Windows?)

Boot Camp should get better over time. Apple's drivers probably have some bugs in them (users have already reported some "blue screen of death" crashes), and don't support some Mac hardware (for instance, iSight webcams and Apple's external USB modem).

Furthermore, Apple says that Boot Camp will be built into the next release of Mac OS X, which it plans to preview publicly in August. It's hard to predict what other Windows-on-Mac options this habitually secretive company has in store for that version.

For now, one thing is clear: Apple's made it exciting again to put a copy of Windows XP on a new computer.

Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro

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