Yesterday’s announcement that Apple had released a software product, Boot Camp, that would allow Windows XP to be loaded and run as a dual-boot component of a Intel-based Mac was amazing.  It wasn’t shocking though.

The experimenting community had figured out to put XP on a MacIntel a month or so ago — there was even a contest with a $14k prize to the first person to do it.  That created a stir, especially after the benchmarks came out that the MacIntel hardware was some of the fastest for running XP.

Why wouldn’t Apple try to capitalize on that?

So, the software is a public beta now, but will be included with the next major rev of OS X (code named Leopard), and while Apple will eventually support this piece, they will not take on supporting the XP that would be loaded on their hardware.  Fair enough.

Who wins here?  Well, everyone, I think. 

I was nervous about moving to Mac, as I had some Windows-only software that slowed my migration.  No more!  Just dual boot, and you’re ready, and without the performance penalties that Microsoft’s Virtual PC gives.  I like Virtual PC, and I run it on the Quad as I have plenty of leftover headroom, but I can’t imagine running that on a MacMini or some other G4 powered machine.  This solution helps solve that problem — admittedly, you have to have MacIntel hardware before this is an advantage.

And, if you’re Microsoft, you sell more copies of XP.  That’s gotta please Redmond, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were at least peripherally involved in helping this code come to life.

Lastly, the gamers will love it.  Esoteric hardware running really fast XP have been their thing, and this solution gives them the best of both worlds.  XP for gaming, and Mac OS X for everything else.

Now, I’ve been reading where some of the Mac folks think it’s the end of the world as we know it.  I don’t think I agree.  I think this opens up a lot of choices for MacIntel owners, and makes the delineation between the OS’s on this class of hardware a little less onerous.  Pick up any box on the software shelf, and you can run it.  Want best of breed software for a given application?  Pick it up and run it, no matter what OS it requires.  Want something that’s tuned a little better for one OS or the other?  Just box the box, and it’ll likely work.  That’s cool.

For me, and lots of other Photoshop users, this is a godsend.  Photoshop won’t be available in a Universal Binary until next year, and Photoshop CS2 under Rosetta is supposedly pretty bad.  In my case, that means I could pick up a MacBook Pro laptop, run both OS’s, and dual boot over to XP to run my old copy of Photoshop CS at a blazing speed until Adobe comes up with the Universal Binary version of Photoshop.  And for all those narrowly-focused photography tools that only run on Windows, now I can have them on that machine too.

I can see no downside to this.  After all, it’s not about OS religion, it’s about having the tools available to do the job at hand.  Boot Camp is like someone giving you another tool chest full of tools for some of those unique situations where you need them.  That’s a winner in my book!