Boot Camp, Mac cultists, and Windows salvation

Ah, a lazy Friday afternoon. Time to get ready for the weekend. A time to let my blood pressure drop and…

Oh, wait. What’s this I hear from MacUser.com ? There’s a story about Boot Camp on USA Today's web site? Titled “Boot Camp will start exodus to Windows” by Andrew Kantor?

Oh, my. So much for my blood pressure.

Kantor’s piece might be one of the most ridiculous Apple-related articles I’ve read in years. Batter up! Let’s take it as it goes.

Today, according to Information Week, the Mac’s desktop share is less than 5%. But Boot Camp, say some people, will overcome that hurdle and help propel the Mac into the mainstream. Businesses will buy Macs for their employees, confident they’ll be able to run all the needed applications. Gamers, who have pretty much shunned the Mac because the gaming picks are slim (to say the least), will be able to run those games on their Mac hardware.

Okay… Who are these “some people”? Many businesses buy Macs for their employees now; many of those Mac users also have to use PC applications, forcing the companies to also buy them a PC. For cross-platform Mac users, Boot Camp and its ilk mean a company can save on its computer hardware budget. But is anyone really saying that, now that Mac hardware can run windows, businesses are going to run out and start buying Macs so that they can run Windows? Maybe “some people” are, but those sound like pretty dumb people.

Then again, I’ve found that mentioning stupid arguments in a column — whether they’re real or made-up — is a great way to prove my point. It’s a rhetorical device called the straw man. Fortunately, I don’t need a straw man today — I’ve got Andrew Kantor.

You know what? Boot Camp isn’t going to propel the Mac into the mainstream. If anything, it will get Mac users to switch to Windows. Sure, it’ll be terrific for Mac fans not wanting to give up their machine of choice but find more and more they need to use Windows. But Boot Camp doesn’t offer any kind of compelling argument for PC users to buy Mac hardware.

It’s foolish to suggest that just because Mac users can run Windows on their systems as well, that they’ll need to use Windows “more and more.” Most Mac users who are excited about running Windows apps are excited because they’ve got to run them on PCs today.

One might also argue that Mac OS X’s superiority when it comes to its safety, security, and usability — not to mention its excellent collection of bundled software — makes it a “compelling argument” for PC users who are tired of adware, spyware, and viruses, not to mention wrestling with Windows, when all they really want to do is e-mail, surf the web, and manage their digital photos. In that scenario, the only compelling argument against the Mac is that it can’t run that one Windows program that they might, just might, need to run some day. Fortunately, Boot Camp cancels out that argument, by providing Windows compatibility just in case it’s needed.

The vast majority of software isn’t made for Macs, so you’d end up buying one just to run Windows — talk about voodoo economics!

He’s got us here. The vast majority of software won’t run on Macs. Those custom-built enterprise applications? Not compatible. IE-only ActiveX web controls? Not compatible. DentistOffice 2000? Not compatible.

What Andrew Kantor reveals with the second part of that statement, by the way, is that previously he felt there were no reasons to buy a Mac. At least being able to run Windows gives you one! Woo-hoo!

The Macs that can currently run Boot Camp are the Mac Mini, the iMac, and the MacBook Pro notebook. Price-wise, they can’t compete with PCs. If you own a business, it’s a pretty easy choice.

Again, cut down by cruel logic! Yes, businesspeople who are buying Macs in order to just run Windows are wasting their money. Of course, the only person who ever claimed that such a thing would happen was a fellow we’ve already mentioned — Mr. Straw Man. (I do think that a few people, enamored of Apple’s industrial design prowess but not its software skills, will buy Macs in order to install Windows on them. But a few hundred, or even thousand, of those people will have no appreciable impact on market share figures.)

By the way, I certainly hope you haven’t bought into the argument “graphics are better on the Mac.” Yeah, in 1992. Go to a bookstore and grab a book on using Photoshop; you’ll see that the Mac and Windows versions are identical. In fact, Photoshop isn’t yet optimized to take advantage of the Mac’s Intel processors.

“Graphics are better on the Mac.” Um… who made that argument? Could it be Mr. Straw Man? Yeah, and he made it in 1992!

Yes, Photoshop is identical on both platforms. It’s been like that for years. So what? Let me get this straight: the argument here is that the Mac is inferior to Windows because some cross-platform apps are identical across platforms? Okay… not following you.

Why do so many Photoshop users use the Mac? The answer doesn’t have to do with Photoshop. It has to do with everything outside of Photoshop. The Mac interface. File management. The Finder. Reliability.

Oh, and the whole “no viruses on the Mac” business? Besides the fact that it’s no longer true, you can get this neat stuff called anti-virus software.

And don’t forget anti-spyware software. And be sure to download all of the Microsoft security patches. And Firefox, so you don’t get viruses via IE. And keep those anti-virus definition files up to date!

As for the whole “no viruses on the Mac” business, the last time I checked, there were two pieces of malware released for the Mac in the past five years. One of ‘em was a proof of concept; the other was so poorly written that it couldn’t spread. Some of that has to do with Apple’s small market share, absolutely. But some of it has to do with the fact that Apple ships a much more buttoned-up operating system than Microsoft does.

Still, say you decide to buy Macs for your business. Your employees will boot to Windows only to run the applications they absolutely have to, but they’ll “live” in OS X most of the time. That’ll be fun. Boot Camp doesn’t allow quick switching between OS X and Windows. You have to reboot. (The folks at Parallels.com, however, released “virtualization software” that they say allows OS X to run any operating system, including Windows, within OS X — no rebooting required. So that’s a step above Boot Camp right off, even if it costs $50.)

You know, taking a massive overdose of heroin in an attempt to stop a runny nose can kill you. (Fortunately, the folks at Pharmocorp have released an “allergy pill” that they say allows you to breathe freely. So that’s a step above certain death, even if it does cost $10 a bottle.)

Much as it pains me, I have to agree with Andrew Kantor’s point here: Anyone who thinks that Boot Camp is going to boost productivity for people who need to use Mac and Windows apps simultaneously is deluded. Boot Camp is going to be fine for occasional uses, and for games. For everything else, you’ll want to run Windows via virtualization — i.e., in a window within Mac OS X. (Like Parallels Workstation, which Kantor waves off in a parenthetical comment.)

Further, your IT department now has to support two operating systems, which — given that the majority of IT pros aren’t Mac people — means hiring or training. But let’s say you’re blessed with a staff that already knows both. You’re still faced with two OSs, two sets of problems, and double the headache. Oh, joy.

Again skewering all the people out there who have declared that Windows-only businesses will now rush to purchase Mac hardware and run Mac OS X. (Also, as a point of fact, supporting Mac OS X is dramatically easier than supporting Windows XP. So “double the headache” is a silly statement. But listen to the advice of Mr. Straw Man: If you’re a company with no experience supporting Mac OS X, adding Mac OS X systems to your installation will indeed require more training for your IT staff!)

So if Boot Camp isn’t going to convince legions of Windows users to join the Cult of Mac, what’s the point? After all, Steve Jobs (praise be unto him) wouldn’t introduce a product without a plan.

And now we approach the climax, Dear Reader. You see, being a Mac user is being a member of a cult. Mac users are all nutty people who can’t be bothered to do the sensible thing and use Windows. They are, instead, a collection of head-shaved nutjobs who worship Steve Jobs (praise be unto him!) like a God.

How can Andrew Kantor write an article as ridiculous as this? Because he thinks that the only reason you’d use a Mac is because you’re mentally ill, or stupid, or confused, or hypnotized.

Well, it’s a great tool for people who want to stick with the Mac for whatever reason — security, hardware or software investment, or simple preference.

You’ve got to love the whatever reason part. Why would you “stick with the Mac” after all signs have told you that you’re crazy? Security — as in your illogical, child-like “security blanket.” Hardware or software investment — as in, “I really, really want to use Windows, but I’m saddled with all of these Macs!” And simple preference — a polite way of saying, “I’m a crazy cultist! Praise be unto Jobs!”

But the notion put forward by some Mac folks — that Boot Camp will improve the Mac’s position in the business and gaming marketplace — is backward.

I would in fact suggest that this particular “notion” is being put forward by non-Mac folks. Like Wall Street. And financial analysts. And other industry-watchers who have generally realized over the past few years — unlike Andrew Kantor — that with Mac OS X, Apple has proven to have a superior product to Microsoft Windows in almost every respect. That many users of Windows PCs are extremely distrustful of Microsoft, and would prefer not to use Windows were they not cruelly yoked to it by the necessities of software compatibility.

And if a few hard-core gamers buy a Mac because they hate Windows but need it to run games, all the better.

Instead, it’s more likely to convince Mac users to switch to Windows once they’ve used it long enough to be deprogrammed.

Seriously, Andrew? You think Windows is so great that Mac users will switch to it as soon as they use it? Well, of course you do — after all, we’re all a bunch of cultists who just need to be deprogrammed.

It may not be so bad — they might even enjoy the convenience of sharing a common platform with the other 97% of the world, brought to them courtesy of Boot Camp.

But of course. Now that Boot Camp has shown us the light, we can join the rest of the right-thinking world. We can learn to stop complaining and love the bomb. We can finally love Big Brother. And all because of Boot Camp. (Praise be unto it!)

Andrew Kantor is a technology writer, pundit, and know-it-all.

I can think of a few other items to add to that list, but what do I know? I’m just another crazy cultist who needs to be deprogrammed.

  
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