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Apple finally supports Windows 8

Apple has finally released drivers for Windows 8 (NB: because Apple takes standard PC hardware and then customizes it, Apple customers are reliant on Apple for “custom” drivers; the manufacturer drivers don’t work)

Download link for the new drivers (March 2013)

Also: the built-in copy of BootCamp has been updated, if you upgrade OS X to version 10.8.3 or later.

To recap:

  • 2011 September: Microsoft releases first beta of Windows 8
  • 2012 May: Microsoft releases final beta of Windows 8
  • 2012 September: Windows 8 (final) goes on sale
  • 2013 March: Apple enables their customers to install Windows 8

Even being generous, that’s an 11 month delay between “the world discovering that Apple hardware needed a new set of drivers, or Windows 8 wouldn’t run” and “Apple delivering the drivers”. Many Apple machines were fine, but a large proportion were effectively blocked from running Windows 8 at all. It’s good to see this finally released, but … that’s a pretty poor service from a company the size of Apple.

Worst was the iMacs, where even machines less than 18 months old were (allegedly, according to the Apple.com forums) unusable on Windows 8. You could install it (with some hacks), but then the graphics card was disabled. This means: most major software won’t run (because the graphics card is used so heavily on modern computers you got corruption of on-screen info, or just massive drops in performance, so that apps were unusable), and definitely: no games.

…which, after all, is one of the main reasons for Mac users to dual-install Windows.

Interestingly, it seems this was caused by Apple’s modifications of the ATI graphics card, so that the ATI drivers were convinced there was an external monitor (which Apple didn’t provide a socket for, so there was nothing you could do – even if you owned a second monitor).

Interesting because: in the PC world, ATi used to be famous for writing low-quality, poorly-tested graphics drivers. ATi owners were accustomed to poring over every new minor version update “just in case” it fixed the glaring bugs in the previous one – and spent a lot of time de-installing and re-installing the older versions (when the newest version frequently introduced major new bugs).

So … although it’s ostensibly Apple to blame here in being so late to fix it, my suspicion is that it was some shoddy code in ATi’s driver that (accidentally) only affected Apple-modified cards.

3rd Party Device drivers: every OS-developer’s nightmare!

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