A California company owned by the data storage giant EMC Corp. has unveiled software that lets Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh machines run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software, side-by-side with Mac programs.
VMware Inc., of Palo Alto, is demonstrating the software at Apple's annual developers conference in San Francisco. VMware hasn't given the product a name, or decided on a price. But it plans to offer a beta version, available for downloading from the Internet, before year's end.
Diane Greene, VMware's chief executive, said the software would let Mac users have the best of both worlds. ``People can consolidate their desktops," Greene said. ``If they're a Mac user they can consolidate on the Mac, and still run Windows."
EMC, of Hopkinton, acquired VMware in 2004, in a move that took computer industry watchers by surprise. While EMC is the leading maker of data storage hardware and software for major companies, VMware is a leading maker of ``virtualization" software for desktop and server computers. Its software slices up a computer into a set of ``virtual machines," like computers within a computer. Each virtual machine is completely independent of the others. This way, a computer can run two or more operating systems at the same time in its own virtual machine. If one machine crashes or gets infected with a virus, the others are unaffected.
Most computers use just a fraction of their full power. Virtualization software lets users effectively turn one machine into two, three, or more, thus getting maximum use out of costly server computers.
It also lets desktop users work in Windows, Linux, or Unix environments on a single machine.
The average user wouldn't benefit from virtualization software, but system administrators and programmers who need to work on multiple operating systems would, because they could do so on one computer.
Over the past year, Apple has begun retooling its Mac computers to work with processors from Intel Corp. These are the same chips used in machines that run Microsoft Windows, so the new machines can work with either operating system. Apple has developed a program, called Boot Camp, that lets users run either Windows or Mac OS X -- but not at the same time.
VMware has made virtualization software for over seven years, all of it designed for computers using Intel chips. Greene said that Apple's embrace of Intel processors made it relatively easy to make a Mac version of the company's software. The VMware product will work not only with Windows, but with any other operating system that runs on Intel chips. So a Mac user would also be able to install and run the Linux operating system, or the Intel version of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris Unix software. This will let Mac users run software for these rival operating systems without having to give up their Macs.
Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. in Wayland, said the VMware product might help Apple sell more Macs. ``It gives them a wider arsenal, a greater array of tools to appeal to users," Kay said.
But he noted that despite reports of surging sales of Mac computers, Apple still holds a mere 2.5 percent of the worldwide market in desktop computers. Kay doubted that virtualization will lead to a major increase in market share.
Meanwhile, Apple rolled out some new products of its own yesterday. Chief executive Steve Jobs gave a sneak preview of Leopard, an upgrade of the Mac OS X operating system. Leopard's new features include Time Machine, an automatic file backup feature, and Spaces, which lets the user arrange software into suites with specialized purposes such as online research or audio editing. Users can then switch instantly from space to space as they change activities.
Jobs also showed a new $2,500 Mac Pro desktop machine with two dual-core Xeon processors from Intel, and a rack-mounted Mac server for corporate users, also running Intel chips. With yesterday's hardware announcements, Apple has completed its plan, outlined last year, to abandon PowerPC chips made by IBM Corp. Now, all new Macs will use the same Intel Core and Xeon chips found in computers running Windows or the free operating system Linux.
Hiawatha Bray can be reached at email@example.com.
(Correction: Because of a reporting error, an incorrect name was given for the latest upgrade to Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS X operating system in a story in yesterday's Business section. The software is called Leopard.)