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Will Intel Macs run Windows? - Part 2
The answer is No. And Yes. And It Doesn't Really Matter. Here's why

Part 2: Yes : Why new Intel Macs will run Windows, page 2.

Partition table drive support

How closely tied to 1982 drive technology is Microsoft's 32-bit Windows? It's hard to say. Hopefully, Microsoft's development efforts for Itanium can be salvaged to enable support for GPT drives right away. I find this unlikely, but it's a nice thought.

It's always possible that there is an easy solution beyond my capacity to imagine. The functionality of drives' underlying MBR format is an assumption that runs throughout 32-bit Windows' core, not to even mention third party software utilities.

Microsoft provides some guidance in a FAQ on Windows XP support for GPT disks. Essentially, Microsoft has a 32-bit version of Windows XP (that we all know and love) as well as a 64-bit version that, well, is a very different beast. The only version that could run on Intel Macs (32-bit) is the version that can't due to an architecture built around MBR.

One further complication is that Windows uses DVD

The fact that Microsoft has already a version of Windows that works with EFI is great, but realistically, how easy is it to merge features from one product to another? Perhaps not so trivial after all.

Consider how Apple spent nearly half a decade merging features of Mac OS 7.5 and NeXTSTEP before delivering the first version of Mac OS X.

And recall how Microsoft struggled for nearly a decade to merge its DOS based Windows 3.1 product with Windows NT 3.5? The company clearly intended NT 3.5 to replace 3.11 (which is why they started NT at version "3.5," not "1.0"), but things don't always work out as planned.

Windows 3 kept getting reincarnated as Windows 95, 98, 98-SE, and Me, while NT 3.5 became NT 4 and then Windows 2000. It wasn't until Windows XP that the company figured out how to finally merge the broad usability of "home Windows" with the stability of "business Windows," into a single code base.

One can be cautiously optimistic that, armed with its previous experience, Microsoft will eventually deliver a GPT savvy version of 32-bit Windows. It's not here yet though, and it's not going to be a trivial slam-dunk to deliver.

Dreamy visions of corporate MacBook Pros
Skipping past all the barriers for running Windows on the new Macs, one can easily postulate scenarios that mutually benefit both Apple and Microsoft; Imagine companies standardizing on Macs, and then choosing to flexibly deploy them under Windows or Mac OS X as need be.

Of course, Microsoft may see some risk in enabling such a possibility, as this would establish Mac OS X as a clear competitor to Windows in business environments, and further enable the possibility of increased defection from Windows to Mac OS X.

Additionally, Apple would have to devote major resources toward matching the shipping capacity and level of service currently provided by business PC experts like Dell. While PC makers may be boring and seem visionless in comparison to Apple, they have mastered supply chain proficiency in markets Apple hasn't yet explored.

Dell has sophisticated pricing tailored to business markets. They offer a nearly infinite range of models from bare stripped down boxes to over the top excessive ones, and everything in between. Apple only offers a few machines targeted to their core markets (principally education, consumers and prosumers) and each major product only has a limited range of options available.

Competing head to head with Dell would present a lot of risk to Apple for uncertain rewards. Why set your sights on taking over low profit corporate sales, when you can't build enough iPods to meet demand right now, and direct sales to consumers are taking off?

Apple's existing investments in retail stores has been paying off in spades. When Apple sells a Mac in an Apple Store, it gets a direct opportunity to sell .Mac and AppleCare, as well as peripherals and higher margin items like software and accessories. Selling Macs as nice Windows boxes to corporate IT departments doesn't fit into Apple's existing model at all, and detracts from Apple's core business.

For Apple to direct any efforts toward selling Intel Macs as Windows machines would leave market analysts as puzzled as they were when Palm announced the Treo 700 phone shipping with Windows Mobile instead of the Palm OS. Fortunately, Apple is not now in the desperate situation Palm found itself.

So will the new Intel Macs run Windows? Certainly they will. As we've known for six months, Apple will do nothing to stop it, and demand will find a way to solve the problems that currently prevent it. But Apple clearly won't be pushing the Intel Macs as potential "Windows PCs from Apple," and Microsoft does not appear able to deliver an immediate solution either.
Since I did such a good job covering both yes and no, you might want to check back for part three and discover why the real answer is also: it doesn't really matter.

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Will Intel Macs run Windows? Part 3


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