Saturday, April 15, 2006

Off to Boot Camp? It's a trip forward into our past.

"If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth -- and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago."
-- Steve Jobs, in Fortune, Feb. 19, 1996, via Wired

There are plenty of people who remember this quote, but not many of them seem to be applying it to the recent release of Boot Camp. There are some exceptions. However, I was expecting many more analyses of Boot Camp as it relates to the future of OS development. All that I've seen so far, however, is a slew of "how to" articles about using Boot Camp and various competing solutions.

Although it may not seem like it, God doesn't play dice, and Steve Jobs doesn't idly shoot off his mouth. Jobs usually meets his own goals, even when they're as seemingly absurd as making something that's "insanely great." Ever since I read his "PC wars" quote--I was late to the party, I probably read it a coupla' years after he said it--I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Apple to get out of the OS business.

It won't make me happy when they do, but there is a time for everything, and the time for an Apple OS seems to have passed. There are others who have picked up the challenge of building insanely great software that is easy to use for the rest of us--Google comes to mind--and Apple has already clearly turned its focus to ubiquitous computing, which is probably why there are constant rumors of an Apple tablet, PDA, or cell phone.

The only problem with any of those is that the OS wars are still pretty active in those formats, although I think that Palm is fighting a rearguard action, and soon will be merely a maker of hardware--and they won't last long against competitors like Motorola and Nokia. Treos aren't stable (and are migrating to other OSs anyway, including the Blackberry "OS"), BBs have become ubiquitous, and Motorola keeps putting out smartphones that are more and more cool and more and more stable. But, until that all sorts itself out--my guess is that the dominant solution will be a Pocket PC smartphone with the BB email/communications software; it'll be buggy and awkward, but good enough. Just like what we've settled on for our PC OS.

Why would Apple want to get into that market? Apple may want to after it's settled down, and they can show everyone how it's supposed to be done, as they did when they dropped the iPod into the MP3 player market. (Technically, you could say that they've already done it in the PDA market by releasing the Newton, which is still the best PDA I've ever seen.) I think that Apple is proving--again--the strength of Jobs' will by releasing Boot Camp, which is, I figure, their first step out of the OS market. They've always tried to provide graceful transitions from one processor to another, or from one version of an OS to another, and I think this is their first step toward a transition from OS X to Windows.

Only time will tell, and I don't have the same kind of control that God does or insight that Jobs does, so I'm sure that most of what I've prognosticated will not come to pass . . . although I have learned that I can have a modicum of control over intelligent design. I don't know if there's the same control in the Windows version, but in our new version of iTunes, there's a slider, buried in the Preferences window, that lets you control how often iTunes repeats tracks by the same artist (or from the same album, I think). So now, not only does God not play dice, but also he won't play 15 C.W. McCall tunes in a row either.

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