At the Macworld Expo this week in San Francisco, Apple executives confirmed that Windows Vista will run on the new Intel-based iMac desktop and MacBook Pro computers that the company is rolling out this year. However, Apple won't promote or support Windows on the new Macs, and users who want to dual-boot between Mac OS X and Windows on those machines still face some technical hurdles.
"We don't mind \[if people want to install Windows on Macs\]," Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said this week. "If there are people who love our hardware but are forced to put up with a Windows world, then that's OK." On the flipside, Apple won't allow customers to install Intel-based versions of Mac OS X on standard PCs. Apple will begin selling its first retail version of an Intel-based Mac OS X version, code-named Leopard, in 2007.
One technical problem will require some thinking, at least for Windows XP users. The new Macs use a new type of BIOS named Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), which Intel developed. This interface is currently incompatible with the 32-bit version of XP. However, it's likely that an enterprising hacker will create an OS boot loader of some kind that lets customers install XP and then dual boot it with Mac OS X.
Unlike XP, Vista, Microsoft's next-generation OS, natively supports EFI, so it should be relatively easy to wipe out Mac OS X and install Vista on the new Macs. And because the Intel-based Macs are based on standard Intel and ATI hardware, Vista will likely prove to be compatible with the system's hardware.
The possibilities opened up by dual booting Vista and Mac OS X on the same hardware are compelling for a number of reasons. To test this scenario, I've ordered a 20-inch iMac from Apple. I'll publish the results of my tests on the SuperSite for Windows in the weeks ahead.