Apple Rolls Out First Intel-Based Macs

Will Mactel lines spark enterprise interest?

With the release of the first Intel-based Macintosh computers, Apple Computer Inc.s standing in the enterprise has a chance of improving, analysts and customers say. And while the outlook is dim, support from Microsoft Corp. could be an important part of the picture.

At Macworld Expo here last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled two new lines of Mactel machines powered by Intel Corp.s new Core Duo processors: a professional notebook called the MacBook Pro and a version of the iMac all-in-one desktop. The Cupertino, Calif., company announced last June that it would introduce Intel-based Macs in the next year; however, few expected that the first models would ship in just six months. Jobs said the release was ahead of schedule.

For enterprise IT managers, Apples Mactel computers offer a new option for the desktop—a single hardware platform that can boot Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. However, some of that flexibility must wait on a version of Windows that supports the EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) used on the new Macs in place of a BIOS; Windows Vista will handle it.

Some customers might prefer to use applications from the different platforms concurrently. To accomplish this task, users can run a virtualization package that opens a window into another operating system. For example, Microsoft currently offers Virtual PC, which supports Windows emulation on PowerPC-based Macs but not on the new Intel models.

Microsoft officials in Redmond, Wash., said they are committed to moving ahead with Virtual PC and that the version of Virtual PC for Mac on the new Apple hardware will run Windows applications at near-native speeds. However, no ship date was provided. In addition, Microsoft said it will continue to develop Microsoft Office for Mac OS X for at least the next five years and support both Intel and PowerPC Macs.

However, analysts see many obstacles to wider Mac adoption in the enterprise. According to Bob ODonnell, an analyst at IDC in San Mateo, Calif., the first hurdles for Mac gains in the enterprise will be a set of reliable boot and disk management utilities that will support Windows booting and then the Virtual PC program from Microsoft.

"Will there be some impact in the enterprise from Apples Intel machines? Absolutely. A large impact, likely not, because of infrastructure issues," ODonnell said.

Some enterprise customers are taking a wait-and-see approach to the introduction. "There has been a lot of interest within our company surrounding Apples move to the Intel platform," said Carl Ashkin, CEO of the Darby Group Companies Inc., in Jericho, N.Y., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. "But, until we are able to get our hands on some of the new hardware, it will be difficult for us to determine what, if any, compelling reason exists to switch from a Windows-based machine to a Mac running on Intel."

Senior Writer John Spooner and contributing writer John Rizzo contributed to this report.