Boot Camp/Parallels

I have (shudder) Microsoft Windows running on my Mac Mini now, both virtualized and dual-boot, thanks to this week’s most interesting betas: Boot Camp and Parallels.

Both have significant potential. I have some Windows-only software that drives useful hardware devices, like my GPS and my camera, and the full dual-boot solution guarantees that they’ll work correctly. Inconvenient, but less so than trying to keep an actual Windows box around.

I also have some old, relatively lightweight Windows software that I’d like to use occasionally, like MasterCook and Streets & Trips. Those are usable on a G4 running Virtual PC, so a real virtualizer is more than sufficient, and preferable for handing off things like printing to the host OS.

The people who think this is “the beginning of the end” for Apple and OS X are smoking their socks (or less savory garments). This is the wafer-thin mint that has the potential to explode the current limits on home and corporate Mac deployment. Hell, just the dynamic partitioning that Apple included in the Boot Camp beta points to a bright future.

Last year I bought my dad a G5 iMac, to try to wean him away from his endless Windows problems. He has just enough third-party crapware that I have to send him a copy of Virtual PC to complete the job. If 10.5 ships with real virtualization, I’ll gleefully swap that iMac out for a new one and call it a bargain. Even the dual-boot may be enough, with its near-certain compatibility with every little USB gadget.

Update: forget “lightweight”; I was using Windows Media Player to watch large movie trailers in my Parallels session last night. The mouse is a bit jumpy, apparently related to propagating cursor changes between the Windows and Mac environments, but that’s the only visible performance issue. Even without taking full advantage of the Intel Core chip’s virtualization (off by default on the Mini, no hints on how to turn it on yet), it’s darn quick for 2D apps.