Apple kicked off the month in which it plans to launch its new Mac OS X 10.5, "Leopard", by reminding users that the beta license for Boot Camp -- the utility that runs Windows XP or Vista on an Intel Mac -- will expire as soon as the new operating system ships.
The news was no secret: Apple had spelled it out on the Boot Camp download page and in the EULA (end user license agreement) included with the beta and posted on the Apple site. "The term of this license...will terminate automatically without notice from Apple upon the next commercial release of the Apple Software, or December 31, 2007, whichever occurs first," the EULA states.
According to Apple, Windows partitions already installed on Macs using Boot Camp will continue to work, but the Assistant software, which sets up and manages those partitions, will not once the license expires. "And Apple will not offer driver updates to beta users," said company spokesman Anuj Nayar in an email.
However, Nayar did not respond to questions about whether Apple will make a final version available to Mac OS 10.4 users, and if so, at what price.
A support document said: "The license to use Boot Camp Beta expires when Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is available to the public. To continue using Boot Camp at that time, upgrade to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard."
However, Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at JupiterResearch, is confident that the company won't be selling Boot Camp separately. "There will be a version of Boot Camp that works," he said. "It's called Leopard."
Gartenberg wasn't surprised that Apple started the month of Leopard's release by refreshing everyone's memory about Boot Camp. "They're setting expectations," he said. "Users may have started seeing it as a feature within Tiger [Mac OS X 10.4] rather than within Leopard.
But it's always said Boot Camp was Leopard only." Apple, he added, is getting ahead of the curve on Boot Camp to dampen any customer complaints that they weren't told of the utility's expiration.
"There's only a very low probability that Apple will sell Boot Camp to Tiger owners," said Gartenberg. "At the end of the day, Tiger is not where Apple wants people to be."
Apple has not announced the date for Leopard's general release, only promising that it will be sometime this month. Rumours and unverified reports have said that the newest builds of Leopard have been almost bug-free, a possible clue that Apple is almost ready to release Mac OS X 10.5 for duplication and distribution.
If Apple repeats past performances, the Boot Camp reminder will be only the first of many small announcements that lead up to Leopard's debut. The company has made a habit of gradually releasing news, often only tidbits, prior to the launch of a major product, such as it did to great effect in June before the iPhone went on sale.
"Every company wants to continually provide a flow of news," said Gartenberg. "The difference here is that when Apple speaks, people tend to listen."