Boot Camp -- What's in a name?

Peter Burrows

Our Tech Channel editor Tom Giles got me thinking about the name Apple chose for the beta of its new software to let users load Windows on their Intel-based Macs. There's the obvious reference to booting up. That I get. But the name seems more than a little passive aggressive, no? After all, most people's perception of an actual boot camp is of a miserable, mentally and physically taxing form of forced training that is imposed on people before they go into an even more mentally and physically taxing experience: war. It may be good for you, but it's not something you do for kicks. (It makes me think of one of the worst names ever for a tech product: Microsoft's "Hailstorm" web-services technology, from a few years back. Here's Scott McNealy's quip on that one, along with some others.).

I'm not saying Boot Camp is a dud as a name. In fact, it's a clever hedge, of sorts. Who knows if Apple's product managers put nearly this much thought into the choice of the name, but it communicates different messages to Apple's real and prospective customers. If you're one of the Mac faithful, it says: here's a piece of software that the hapless Windows throngs can use to start a trying pilgrimage to the superior computing platform. If they get through it, they'll have attained your higher state of enlightenment. And it says to those sojourners-from-Windows: if you refuse to do what's good for you and just go out and buy a Mac, here's an alternative path. It won't be hassle-free or nearly as elegant, but don't come crying to us if things turn ugly ('cause we're not supporting Windows on the Mac).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.