MacNN points to an Apple Support document announcing Boot Camp will cease to work “when Leopard is available to the public.” That means if you’re happily dual-booting Linux or Windows on your Mac, you may soon be unable to do so without a Leopard upgrade. Edit: This is technically inaccurate as written originally. What Apple says is that “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.” So, in other words, portions should still work (the boot loader itself), but the license is no longer valid and the assistant will no longer function. It’s still unclear when the assistant ceases function, but it seems to be that its termination date, as baked into the assistant software, is December 31, 2007. That means you should be able to continue running Boot Camp indefinitely, even if it technically violates your license, and use the assistant until the end of the year (we think). If necessary, you may need to keep lawyers away from your desk. If you have beta 1.2 or earlier, the assistant software has already expired, though the bootloader should not. The 1.3/1.4 beta should expire soon, upon release of the new OS. -PK

This is especially bad news for music users, who almost never upgrade operating systems the day they ship because of compatibility and support issues. (Sure, Logic will support Leopard from day one … and your audio interface will be around in, what, three months, with Pro Tools months later?)

Close reading of the user agreement in Boot Camp beta had given some users warning of this some time ago, which is prompting hordes of Apple apologists to somehow argue this is a good idea. I salute you for your positive outlook, but this seems awfully annoying otherwise (even if right now I’m keeping XP only on my PC boxes.)

Given that Boot Camp has been a huge publicity score for Apple, I’m hopeful Apple will reconsider, offering Boot Camp for Tiger at least as an unsupported download, or at least give Tiger users a grace period in which they can upgrade to the new OS. Yes, it’s a beta … but it’s a beta of Boot Camp, not Leopard per se, and it’s working for people, often a selling point for hardware and software far more profitable to Apple than the OS upgrade is. And because Boot Camp is really great, and Leopard promises lots of additional awesomeness beyond Boot Camp, it seems unlikely that people will need a self-destruct sequence in Boot Camp just to get them to upgrade.

On a bright note, at least Linux dual-booters have other options… and there’s always Parallels and VMWare.

Apple warns of Boot Camp expiration [MacNN]
When does Boot Camp Beta expire? [ Support, in a document curiously not answering when that is beyond obliquely suggesting “October 2007”]

Update: R Eunson and others point out some details Apple left out of their support document: only the Boot Camp Assistant should stop working, not the bootloader that lets you choose operating systems.

I still say, though, this isn’t exactly one for Great Moments in Customer Support. Is it a deal-breaking, press-stopping issue? No, of course not. But it’s niggling issues where customer satisfaction is won or lost — the difference between 9/10 and 10/10. We focus a lot on quality in terms of technical quality assurance — whether engineering got the code / gear working right. But a lot of cases actually come down to communications and support. Here, Apple could make basically the exact same decision, but communicate more effectively (a user license is not an effective communications tool) and clearly (telling you when the app stops working, not your legal license). I’m not trying to single out Apple here, by any means. This is something all tech companies could do better, not because they have to or because their business requires it, but because they’ll have happier customers. And happy customers do spend more money.