Enlisting in Apple Boot Camp, Part 2

2 May, 2006 By: Kenneth Wong

Experts from Autodesk, auto-des-sys and Nemetschek discuss the realities of running Windows-based CAD on a Mac

Last month, Apple launched Boot Camp, a free beta tool that lets Mac users run Windows and associated software from their own machines. How will Boot Camp affect the predominantly Windows-based CAD industry? We talked with four CAD software experts to gain some insight: Brian Mathews, senior architect in Autodesk's Collaboration Services group; Chris Yessios and Dave Kropp, president and senior vice-president of auto-des-sys, makers of the formZ modeler; and Sean Flaherty, CEO of Nemetschek North America, makers of VectorWorks.

Interviews were conducted separately and responses were edited and consolidated for clarity and length. Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

Tell us about virus attacks in the Boot Camp scenario. Does running Windows on an Intel-based Mac offer more security than running Windows on a PC?

Dave Kropp (auto-des-sys): Viruses have nothing to do with hardware. They usually attack the weaknesses in the OS. My guess is, the disadvantage of running Windows under Boot Camp is that you won't get the security features of Unix [the foundation architecture for Mac OS X], so you'll be susceptible to [Windows-related] viruses.

Sean Flaherty (Nemetschek): In the Boot Camp Windows environment on the Mac, you'll still be as vulnerable to Windows viruses, but it doesn't make your Mac environment more prone to viruses when you're just running Mac OS. So you might get a virus on your Windows portion of the machine, but you're not going to catch that on your Mac portion. It's hard to say whether one environment is more secure than the other. It's more accurate to say that there are more people trying to attack the [widely adopted] Windows platform than the Mac. If you're a hacker and you want to inflict the most damage, that's what you'll do.

Brian Mathews (Autodesk): When you're running Boot Camp, you're still running Windows, so you get everything that's good and bad about Windows.

Will Boot Camp be disruptive to the CAD industry?

Chris Yessios (auto-des-sys): I don't see why it'll be disruptive. Most professional design offices today use mixed platforms. They use both Windows and Mac to get the best of both worlds. Most of our customers use AutoCAD for drafting and use form.Z for design. Will Boot Camp make life easier for some people? Probably.

Mathews (Autodesk): In the short term, it's just the opposite. The popular CAD applications, like Inventor, run only on Windows. The cost of porting to another platform is very high. While there's always been interest, it just didn't happen. Now, from a software vendor's point of view, you can have your software run on Mac without having to do anything. But thinking farther into the future, Apple's move towards Intel has made this porting easier, so if we ever want to port, it'll lower that cost. Should independent software vendors support OS X or should Apple move closer to Windows? Will virtualization technology based on a common processor allow you to run two OSs without rebooting? If so, a lot of the earlier questions become irrelevant. Software vendors can then write their software for whatever OS is best suited for their products, and users get the best tools. The answers to these questions aren't here yet, but Boot Camp is a step toward finding these answers.

Flaherty (Nemetschek): Boot Camp is probably not something that Apple had strategically planned all along, but maybe they saw that it was inevitable so they might as well control it. I'm curious as to what Apple's real motivation is. I've always viewed Mac as a platform and Windows as an OS. The reason people like Mac is because of the whole combination -- everything works together very well. When Apple switched to clones about 10 years ago, when Apple started to sell Mac as an OS, I think the platform really suffered. If Apple is working toward giving Mac users access to popular Windows apps, it's good intent. But I would hate to see the Mac become just another white box, where you go to a store, you pick up a Mac or a Windows machine and there's no difference. I think Mac will lose something.

Will Boot Camp lead to Inventor for Mac or AutoCAD for Mac?

Mathews (Autodesk): Since Autodesk is a publicly held company, I can't comment on that. We haven't made any announcement in that area.