Intel Macs Could Open Some Windows

News Analysis: Observers say the firmware used by Apple Computer's new Intel-based computers will determine what other operating systems they can run.

Apple Computer Inc.s new Intel processor machines might not be Windows-friendly at first.

The Cupertino, Calif., computer maker, which on Wednesday surprised Macworld Expo attendees by rolling out an iMac and a new MacBook Pro notebook based on Intel Corp.s Core Duo processor, has said it has done nothing to prevent Microsoft Corp.s Windows from running on the new machines for those customers who might want to do so.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about the first Intel-based iMacs.

"Apple has no plans to sell or support Windows, but we arent doing anything in our hardware design to preclude our systems from running Windows," company spokesperson Teresa Weaver said in an e-mail to eWEEK.

However, Apple might not have gone all out to help, either, observers say, a move that could potentially limit the options of those businesses or individuals who might wish to create double-boot or even triple-boot machines by combining the new Mac Platforms with Windows and or the Linux operating system.

Apples plans to switch to Intel Corp. processors from PowerPC chips made by IBM and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. touched off speculation about whether or not Intel Macs would also run Windows, a factor that some saw as making them more attractive to businesses.

Now that the machines are available, numerous reports have said they are unable to load Microsofts Windows XP, due to the way the OS interacts with their firmware, which controls their boot process. Although the machines will boot forthcoming Vista operating system, the reports said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Intels secretive Apple group.

Whether or not the new Macs can run a given operating system hinges on Apples implementation of firmware designed to get their Intel hardware primed and ready, before handing off control to an operating system, firmware experts say.

Apples Intel machines firmware, the company has said, use a framework called Extensible Firmware Interface, or EFI.

EFI, first created for use with Intel Itanium servers and then adapted to PC hardware, uses a system of drivers to administer to hardware, getting bits such as processors up and running.

But EFI, now called UEFI or United Extensible Firmware Interface by the industry body that governs its development, lacks the ability to hand off to a non-EFI aware operating system after completing its work, experts say, meaning the new Macs are unlikely to run OSes such as Windows XP and versions of Linux engineered for BIOS or basic input/output system software, an older system for getting PC hardware started.

Next Page: Developers bridge the gap.