Qantas has made a lot of noise about the new Macs in its domestic Qantas Club lounges. But it hasn't been so keen to point out one of the key features of those machines: when you sit down at them, you're offered a choice of whether to run Windows 7 or Mac OS X.
Qantas announced the new deployment in a press release late last month. The Macs are already in the Sydney T3 lounge, and will roll out to the rest of the network's lounges over the course of this year. "The new development will mean a new range of Apple technology including the latest generation Macs implemented across all Australian Qantas lounges, moving the lounges to an all Apple environment," the press release proclaimed.
While that looks like a big publicity win for Apple, there's one factor which neither Qantas or Apple pointed out, and which I didn't realise until I sat down to test out one of the machines in the Sydney lounge last week. The Macs have been set up as dual-boot machines that offer you the option of running either Mac OS X or Windows 7.
"The Macintosh is capable of running many modern operating systems. Choose the operating system which you are more comfortable with, or choose the one that will allow you to be most productive today," the screen proclaims. I can't help thinking that the OS you're comfortable with would invariably be the one you're most productive with, but there might have been a lot of behind-the-scenes wrangling over the phrasing. The boot process is a lot slower if you choose Windows 7 over Max OS X, but the machine I tested ran snippily once either OS had loaded.
This move is a very rational decision. There are far more Windows users than Mac users, and hassled business travellers working on their presentations would doubtless prefer the familiarity of Windows 7 (and the Windows version of Office) to the Mac. Offering a purely Mac environment would have inevitably led to some noisy complaints, and there's normally quite enough complaining going on around airports as it is.
Qantas has been experimenting with Macs in its lounges for a while. In some of its business class lounges, it has had both Macs (with no dual-boot option) and PCs on offer for Internet browsing. The biggest problem with those Macs is that for some bizarre reason, the security settings disabled the ability to right-click using the mouse. Fortunately, that's been fixed on the new machines.
Even with slow boot times for Windows, a new Mac is a big improvement on the ageing PC systems Qantas previously offered in their lounges. Those machines were so old that they only ran Internet Explorer 6 -- a horrendous situation for any traveller to face, and a major security risk. So whether you're a Windows fan or a grateful Mac user, the Apple deployment looks like good news.
Qantas hasn't quite put all its technology eggs in one basket. Several of its lounges also currently sport BlackBerry charging stations, which offer a range of connectors to charge different BlackBerry models. If the "all Apple environment" comes true, they'll need to add a few iPhone and iPod charging decks as well.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman invariably uses his own PC when he's in an airport lounge, though the printer access is sometimes handy. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.