Computerworld: IT could be drafted into Boot Camp

I’ve talked in the past about how IT departments need to rethink their positions against the widespread use of Apple computers and Mac OS X in their organizations. I’ve talked about the fact that many of the old myths from the mid-’90s about the Macintosh just aren’t true. There’s plenty of software for the platform, proprietary protocols are a thing of the past, and the price of entry isn’t that different from what you’d pay for a system from any Tier 1 PC vendor.

I won’t even go into issues such as virus attacks and spyware being virtually nonexistent problems for Mac users. Instead, I’ll focus on three new reasons for business users to look more closely at Apple Computer: the company’s migration from Power PC to Intel processors, its announcement of Boot Camp for running Windows XP natively on an Intel Mac, and the recently announced delay of Microsoft’s Vista operating system. All are compelling arguments for deploying Apple systems where they can do the most good.

Many Mac users were shocked last year when Apple said it would move to Intel chips, but even before last week’s Boot Camp announcement, I saw this transition as providing an opportunity for IT departments. For IT, the most important aspect of the Apple migration to Intel isn’t the boost in performance over time. That’s not an IT issue. For IT, the most important aspect of the Apple migration to Intel is what Apple on Intel means for the many business users who need to run Windows for corporate applications that just aren’t available on Mac OS.

Boot Camp will resolve a lot of potential holdups to adoption. Now in beta and available for download, Boot Camp allows anyone with an Intel Mac and a copy of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 to run Windows. That’s right — no more virtual anything. A group of programmers had already demonstrated that running Windows natively on an Intel-based Mac was possible. But that was a clever hack that no sane IT shop would ever support in production. Boot Camp changes the equation, and it will be a part of the upcoming Mac OS X Version 10.5, code-named Leopard.

Does deploying dual-boot Macs raise total cost of ownership? Possibly, but I suspect that issue will be minimal, given that most organizations already support multiple versions of operating systems. Of course, any TCO increase would have to be offset by productivity boosts from those users given access to both operating systems.

The final reason for IT to look at Mac OS is the latest delay of Windows Vista. While the delay holds no earth-shattering implications for IT, it does mean there’s a window of opportunity to take a closer look at what else is out there now, ready to be put to use in your organization.

I’m not suggesting that most businesses would be better served deploying Mac OS over Windows. I’m not even suggesting that Mac OS is right for some aspect of every business. But these developments do dangle some low-hanging fruit that IT departments can exploit for positive results. In this case, that fruit just may be an Apple.

Michael Gartenberg is vice president and research director for the Personal Technology & Access and Custom Research groups at JupiterResearch in New York. Contact him at mgartenberg2@optonline.net. His weblog and RSS feed are at http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/gartenberg.

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