By Graham Barlow
Who would have thought we would see Windows running on a Mac with Apple's blessing?
The decision could widen the appeal of Apple Macs
Boot Camp, a new utility released by Apple, makes it easy for anybody to install Windows XP on to a new Mac.
It will not work on the older G5 and G4 Macs, but it opens a whole new world of compatibility to anybody with a Mac running one of the new Intel processors.
It is a bold move by Apple that has
taken everybody by surprise, although looking back, the signs were there that it was going to happen ever since Apple announced the switch to Intel processors last June.
Boot Camp is currently available as a free trial, and it is scheduled to form part of Leopard, the next version of OS X operating system.
These are the first details we have heard on the new operating system, and more information is expected in August at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference.
It means that Apple has had its Windows dual boot system in development for some time now.
Apple may have been forced into releasing Boot Camp this early by Jesus Lopez and Eric Wasserman.
The two pioneering software programmers succeeded in first installing a copy of Windows XP on an Intel Mac on 16 March.
The pair won a $13,000 bounty from the OnMac.net website for being the first people to get Windows installed on an Intel Mac.
It took a lot of technical know-how and a lot of messing around with disc partitions, installation discs and driver files to get it to work, but it was possible for other people to replicate their method.
With the technical possibility of Windows on a Mac revealed by the boys' DIY method, Apple has responded with an official solution.
Apple's Boot Camp makes it much easier for anybody with an Intel Mac to install Windows XP.
Rather than a signal that it is going to abandon OS X in the future, letting people install Windows on a Mac right now is a clever way to encourage Windows users to make the switch to Mac.
Apple wants to get as many people switching over from Windows as it can, and with the news that Windows Vista is being delayed until at least January 2007, it is striking while the iron is hot.
If a Windows user is nervous about switching to a Mac, they now have the ultimate security blanket.
Seeing Windows XP running on a new MacBook Pro for the first time is a very strange experience.
It runs without a hitch. After a few minutes you quickly forget that the computer you are using is a Mac, and not a PC.
Will most existing Mac users care? That's debatable. Most Mac users are happy to never go near Windows and are unlikely to be tempted to install it now.
Boot Camp throws up a number of other issues they need to consider.
Will having Windows installed on your Mac leave them open to the security vulnerabilities that Windows users take for granted, but Mac users seldom have to worry about?
Could the Windows installation be used as a vulnerable backdoor into the Mac's previously watertight security? Only time will tell.
The Mac games industry has also been turned on its head.
With Windows running on an Apple machine, Mac gamers now have the ability to run all the latest Windows games without having to wait for a company to port them across to the Mac platform.
In fact, it could be Mac gamers that have the most to gain from installing Windows on their Mac.
Will we one day even see OS X running on PCs with Apple's blessing too, as some industry experts have predicted?
Probably not any time soon, but suddenly everything seems possible.