Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Apple shipping Windows? I don't think so.

I've had to smile myself repeated times when people on IRC and elsewhere came up with hypotheses about why Apple would switch to Windows. This is not going to happen for both strategic and technical reasons.

Mac OS X has been the major selling point of Apple hardware for years. "PC" hardware used to be what Apple made most of its money on. Mac OS X came with iTunes pre-loaded. This encouraged people to buy an iPod. Windows users saw it on their friends and strangers in the street, wanted it, got iTunes to run it. Normal users do not go installing software themselves without good reason, i.e. very few would have installed iTunes were it not for the iPod. And guess what? Apple business has since shifted to the iTunes Music Store. So basically, Mac OS X drives the vast bulk of Apple's business directly or indirectly.

So much for the strategic, more of the technical. Mac OS X appeals to completely non-technical users through its intuitive interface. It also appeals to very technical users due to its Unix (or specifically, BSD) base. Due to various graphics accelerations, including CoreImage, Mac OS X is a far better OS to be running on graphics workbenches than is Microsoft Windows XP. Even though Adobe will be running a little more slowly on the new Intel Macs until 2007, the date it is thought they will release native Intel-OS X versions (binaries), I don't think there's a chance in hell that Apple will be abandoning their powerful graphics engines, and ship a less versatile OS like Windows Vista (yes, the shell has improved, but a lot of legacy tools won't have been ported yet, e.g. expect, screen, tee).

What many people don't realise is that most of the hardware Apple build into their machines is also available to other hardware makers; Apple need to still beware of being overtaken by one of the smaller companies operating in that space.

A much better way to run Windows apps on Mac is VirtualPC. It costs about the same as a native Windows install. And Darwine is waiting in the wings.

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