Prolog

On 5 April 2006, something big happened in the world of PCs, and it was all down to Apple. To quote the press release, “Apple today introduced Boot Camp, public beta software that enables Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP… Boot Camp allows users with a Microsoft Windows XP installation disc to install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac, and once installation is complete, users can restart their computer to run either Mac OS X or Windows XP.”

Prolog

The statement carries on in this matter-of-fact style. It’s only once you read between the lines that you realise the true gravity of the announcement. For starters, it’s enough to make staunch PC users look at the Apple range in a new light: strip away the packaging and you’ve got an Intel chipset, Intel processor and all the usual PC components. Now, with Windows in place, you’ve essentially got a PC; it just so happens it can run Mac OS X as well.

This is excellent news. Ever since we saw the Mac mini, we’ve been challenging PC manufacturers and chassis designers to come up with something as good-looking for a similar price. And ever since, they’ve failed. Either their designs have been too dull, too plasticky or too bizarre. Only Apple appears capable of producing something attractive, quiet and well-priced.

But Apple’s announcement has far greater ramifications than the simple fact that PC users can now buy a Mac mini as their next PC. It opens up big questions about whether Apple will continue to be a force as a designer of operating systems.

Apple will no doubt argue that this remains core to its business, but it can’t exactly claim to be a market leader. Even now, after years of praise for the Mac mini, iPod and Apple’s super-stylish laptops, only 3% of all new computers sold use its operating system.

Although this collection of stylish hardware has seen Apple’s consumer appeal grow, it’s now facing much stiffer competition from the PC in its traditional stronghold of design. In the past few years, we’ve seen the traditional creative software companies – Quark and Adobe in particular – produce equally powerful packages for the PC.

In two or three years’ time, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or both companies declare they will develop solely for one platform, Windows, now that it can run on all the latest hardware – whether PC or Mac. And once the big boys withdraw their support, how much longer before everyone else does?

For all this to happen, no-one disputes that Windows needs to improve. Compared to Apple OS 10.4, Tiger to its friends, Windows XP looks clunky and old-fashioned. But at last, Windows Vista is on its way. It’s swish, it’s friendly, it’s easy to use, it’s secure – but can it lure away all those Mac lovers? It’s a big question. Discover the answer on p128.

The changing face of PC Pro

There are many changes to this month’s PC Pro, most obviously the design. The font may have changed, but this redesign enhances the finest traditions of PC Pro – and will hopefully make it even more clear that we go the extra mile to produce advice you can trust. For example, you can now get an at-a-glance view of how a PC performs when gaming by looking at the graph we publish: no-one else goes into this level of detail.

We’ve also introduced a new section, and in many ways it encapsulates PC Pro’s unique approach. We’re simply not content to write a one-page article explaining some nicety of Excel; we want to provide insight and knowledge that’s almost impossible to find out yourself. We want to go in-depth: and that’s the title of our new section. Every month, In Depth will explore two topics and provide practical advice on how to use technology both at home and at work.

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