Apple's Boot Camp software may emerge as a far larger deal than it seems, according to a leading tech opinion-maker.

Looking at the beta software, and speculating on the new rapprochement between Apple and Microsoft, Robert Cringley predicts that Apple will release a product that's similar to Boot Camp but which lets owners of 32-bit PCs run Mac OS X as well as Windows.

"I predict that Apple will settle on 64-bit Intel processors, and at that time will announce a product similar to Boot Camp to allow OS X to run on bog-standard 32-bit PC hardware, turning the Boot Camp relationship on its head and trying to sell $99 copies of OS X to 100 million or so Windows owners," he writes.

He also observes that Microsoft stands to benefit from Boot Camp by selling retail copies of XP - and states that he "knows" the software will also support Windows Vista in future.

"One reason why Microsoft isn't surprised by Boot Camp is because Microsoft has been working with Apple to make sure that Windows Vista runs well on Intel Macs. Apple will support Vista dual boot," he writes.

He also notes Apple's recent move to join the BAPCo Intel benchmarking group. This shows Apple plans to run a version of Windows on Macs: "Apple doesn't join standards organisations lightly, so Cupertino must expect that the Intel Macs will show quite well against more standard Windows platforms," he suggests.