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These are no ordinary computers: Apple and Boot Camp, again

I’ve been thinking about Boot Camp some more, and I maintain that it’s a genius move. Inevitably the Apple fanboys are predicting the end of Microsoft and a big headache for Dell, but I really don’t think that’s going to happen.

I do think Boot Camp (and Leopard, when it ships) will give Apple a big market share boost. Being able to run Windows apps when you need to is a huge thing, and I’m almost regretting ordering a new PC. Doubling or even trebling the amount of Macs sold over the next 12 months seems reasonable to me. But Apple as a mass-market brand, taking on Dell? I really don’t see it.

[Usual Apple-related disclaimer: you never know what’s in Steve Jobs’s head. You can only go on what Apple’s doing *now*, because there’s no way of telling what the firm will do next. So for example I got a lot of criticism a while back for predicting a headless Mac and a video iPod, both of which eventually appeared, but I – like most people scribbling about Apple – didn’t see the move to Intel chips coming. And Boot Camp was a surprise too.]

Apple isn’t Dell. The best analogy I can think of is supermarkets, and particularly food shopping. Dell is Tesco. Apple is Marks and Spencer.

A more concrete comparison: Dell will give you a 2.8GHz dual core PC with a gig of RAM and a 19″ flat panel display for £615 [Update, 11 April: they’ve just cut the prices. You can get that spec for £439 now – which is really annoying, as I ordered it at the higher price. Bah]. There isn’t an equivalent Mac Mini, so the closest equivalent machine is an iMac. It’s got a bigger screen (20″) and a bigger hard disk (250GB compared to 80GB) but lower RAM and a slower dual core (2GHz). Still, it’s close enough. Including VAT it’s £1,229 – double the price of the Dell.

That’s not a criticism of Apple, though. It’s an observation. Dell, like Tesco, is happy to scrap it out in the high-volume, low margin sector. Apple, like Marks & Sparks, goes for the more discerning shopper. It’s particularly apparent when you look at the top end of the PC market, where Apple has the MacBook Pro.

Dell’s best laptop is the XPS M170, a 17″ machine that’s just shy of £1,500. 2.13GHz chip, 2 gigs of RAM, decent graphics card, blah blah blah. For the same money you can get the basic MacBook Pro, which is dual core rather than single core, so in the right circumstances it should be a screamer. Bringing that up to 2GB of RAM means shelling out £1,800 for a machine with a smaller screen than the Dell, but that’s not the point. The MacBook Pro, like its predecessor the Powerbook, feels high quality in a way that the best Dells just don’t. I like Dells, but their top-line models are Tesco Finest rather than Marks & Sparks.

*adopts languid, sexy voice*

This is no ordinary computer. This is a California-designed, sun-kissed, ultra-shiny computer.

You get the idea.