The greatest impact of Apple's Boot Camp will probably be felt by Windows users. Analysts say that's exactly who Apple is targeting with this software.

"I think there are many more Windows users that would want to come over than Mac users that would want to use Windows," said Tim Bajarin, president of the high-tech consulting firm Creative Strategies. "Overnight Apple has created the most versatile computer platform and become even more attractive to switchers and people that were on the fence."

Apple's 'bold move'

Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at market-research firm JupiterResearch, agrees: "It removes one of the last obstacles for people considering Macintosh, but feel they still need to run Windows or a particular Windows application." He described Boot Camp's release as "a very bold move by Apple."

Being able to boot an Intel-based Mac gives potential switchers the opportunity to test the operating systems side-by-side. And the importance of that should not be underestimated, according to Gartner/G2 research director Mike McGuire.

"It's another step for Apple to establish a little more credibility with those people that want to switch," McGuire said.

The digital home

But which segment of Windows users is more likely to feel an immediate impact from Boot Camp? Bajarin says it will be home users as opposed to a Windows-based business. "The ideal customer for this is the family where the parents have Windows at work, but they want a Mac for the home," he said. "Instead of buying two machines, they can just buy a Mac, pay for the XP Licence and solve both needs."

Apple has made great strides in peddling the benefits of Mac OS X to the enterprise market in the last couple of years. Touting OS X's Unix underpinnings, Apple has made significant headway in promoting its platform to new customers. But appealing to IT professionals in the enterprise space is one thing, making the Mac attractive to the massive segment of Windows-using consumers is another.

"It should help [Apple] grow [its] market share," Bajarin said. "I believe Apple was on track to potentially double their market share based on their strong emphasis of the Mac as the center of the digital lifestyle. Boot Camp could actually accelerate that."

Watch out Dell

Any gain in market share by Apple wouldn't necessarily threaten Microsoft. Rather, that software giant could potentially benefit from Boot Camp allowing Windows onto Mac hardware.

"This puts Apple in a much more competitive position against Dell, HP and other PC vendors," Bajarin said. "The irony is that Microsoft wins in this, just as Apple does, because Microsoft is in a place to sell more Windows licences to the Mac users."

The analysts Macworld spoke to generally agree that giving Mac and Windows users the option to boot into either operating system was a smart move by Apple. Whether Boot Camp winds up boosting Apple's market share remains to be seen.

Still, the software does remove a major barrier. "It provides an elegant, short-term, tactical solution for getting native Windows support on Apple hardware and allowing their customers to get the functionality they may need," JupiterResearch's Gartenberg said.