In early April, Apple Computer released a little piece of software that, upon first glance, was surely thought to be an April Fool's joke. “Macs do Windows too,” said the website. But it was true: any new Mac with an Intel processor is now fully capable of booting up and running Microsoft Windows natively. Scary! Or is it?

How many times have I heard someone say, “I'd use a Mac, but I need to run AutoCAD?” or “I would love a Mac, but the PC renders faster,” or “The latest version of Watchout only runs on a PC, so I had to get one.” I fell prey to that last one.

Well, no longer are any of these valid excuses. Installing Apple's new Boot Camp software enables any Intel-based Mac (which now includes the iMac, Mac Mini, and MacBookPro) to run any Windows software out there, totally legitimately.

The way it works is actually very interesting. The Boot Camp installer lets you partition your hard drive without reformatting the whole thing. You create a Windows-ready partition (formatting it as either FAT32 or NTFS), and then, you are ready to install. Boot Camp even burns you a CD with all the necessary Windows drivers to make sure you get all the graphics and keyboard functionality. You must have the full Windows XP installer to complete the task.

So what does this really mean? Well, for one thing, Boot Camp is beta software. Apple actually plans to implement some variant of Boot Camp in the next version of OS X Leopard (10.5). As always, the wording on Apple's website is a bit cryptic, so there is no telling what the actual implementation will be.

There is another similar application that came out just a few days after Boot Camp called Parallels. Parallels is what they call virtualization software. Much like Connectix (now Microsoft) Virtual PC, the software allows you to run a Windows environment in a separate, self-contained window in the Mac Finder. With virtualization software, you run your Windows applications inside their own window, and you can drag and drop files and folders from the Mac side of things into the Windows environment. The technological leap for Parallels versus Virtual PC is that Parallels runs Windows natively and, therefore, is very fast. Virtual PC is emulation software, so before it can even think about running your Windows apps, it has to translate Windows itself to run on the PowerPC chip in your computer.

How will this affect projection designers? Well, for one thing, my back is certainly going to thank me when I only have to lug a single computer to tech, rather than two. It might make it a lot easier for the rental houses. They will only need to send you a single computer, and you can choose which operating system you require when you turn on the machine. I am also excited about the prospect of being able to program Watchout 3 on my Mac. I already own Photoshop, After Effects, and Final Cut Pro, and while I might invest in a copy of Windows, I am probably not going to repurchase those other programs. The bottom line is that I no longer need to worry about what will happen in the future if a developer decides to stop working with the Mac…not that I think they will…at least I hope not!

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Apple's Boot Camp: