After Apple Computer unveiled its Boot Camp software, enabling users of its new Intel-based machines to easily install Windows XP, the big question was, ‘Why?’

Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research, offered his answer: “Apple is a hardware company; they build software to sell the hardware. The question is really why not to support the installation of Windows on their computers. This allows them to sell more hardware.”

Actually, two hackers named 'narf2006' and 'blanka' had figured out how to dual-boot the Intel Macs a few weeks ago with a complex solution that worked but required numerous steps and patches. Then came the public beta of Boot Camp, an easy-to-use, Apple-like system that partitions your hard drive, allows you to select which partition to boot from, and provides all the necessary drivers on a self-made CD that auto-installs the drivers once XP is installed.

"The means to do this was already out there and was not a seamless experience," said Schadler. "By releasing Boot Camp, Apple regains control of the user experience and ensures it is seamless.”

When asked about the business case for allowing rival Microsoft’s operating system on Apple hardware, Brian Croll, senior director for Mac OS X product marketing was blunt: “Lots of people are sold on the Mac, but they have one or two applications that must run on Windows - and that kept them from the Mac." Apple had also received numerous requests from Mac users to make Windows available on the new Intel hardware. Still others had a nonspecific anxiety around not being able to access a Windows application should they need one after buying a Mac. Boot Camp worked for all three groups, said Croll.

“Boot Camp makes the Mac way more appealing to Windows users who are considering the switch by lowering the barrier to moving to Mac,” he said.

The instructions for installing Boot Camp are involved, though much less so than the original hack, and still include the caveat of correctly identifying the C drive for formatting when doing the Windows install. Unlike the original solution, Apple's software allows users to repartition the drive into Mac and Windows partitions from Mac OS X without having to reformat the hard drive. David Moody, vice president of hardware product marketing, reinforced the idea that users move cautiously.

"Apple strongly suggests users print out the installation instructions and follow them carefully," Moody said.

Boot Camp does not include the Windows XP Service Pack 2 disk needed for running Windows, and Apple does not plan to sell that operating system. Users who want to dual-boot their machines are expected to buy Windows like anyone else. “We want to make clear that Apple is not going to preinstall or sell Windows," said Croll. "This party is BYOW (bring your own Windows).”

The software is expected to remain in beta through much of 2006, as it will be formally integrated into Mac OS X 10.5, or Leopard, which isn't due out until at least the end of this year.