Next up: virtualization included and OS X and Windows XP running side-by-side

After Apple's release of Boot Camp, allowing customers to install and run Windows XP natively on its Intel-based Macs, many predicted that it would simply be a matter of time before Macs started shipping with Microsoft's Windows XP preinstalled. Now it seems the inevitable has occurred.

One of the largest online Apple dealers, MacMall, has announced that it is now shipping iMacs, MacBook Pros and Mac Minis with a choice of Windows XP Home or Windows XP Pro pre-installed as an option. According to both MacMall's website and Apple's online store, a identically configured 1.83GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro can be pre-installed with Windows XP Professional for $100 -- which is actually a discount.

It's quite interesting to see this occur because currently, Intel-Macs are the only computers available that can run both OS X and Windows XP natively. While it is possible to install OS X on home-built PCs, the systems do not have proper drivers and support (save for some very specifically configured hardware), and with current OS X versions, operation is haphazard at best.

Analysts are predicting that a trend such as that being done by MacMall, will give Apple a considerable foot-hold in competing with companies such as Dell, HP and others. Those customers who previously wanted to switch to a Mac but were held back by application support concerns now have virtually nothing to worry about.

Interestingly, as soon as Parallels releases a final retail version of its Workstation 2.1 virtualization application, we might begin seeing Macs with virtualization pre-installed with Windows XP. This will allow a level of OS X and Windows integration that was not possible before. Apple's switch to Intel is clearly becoming more interesting everyday.

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