Apple's bid to attract Windows switchers climbed several notches today with the release of software that allows Intel Macs to install and run Windows XP on their Macs.

The software - an 83MB download - is called "Boot Camp". It's available immediately as beta software and will feature in "Leopard," Apple's next major release of Mac OS X, that will itself be previewed at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in August.

Boot Camp allows users with a Microsoft Windows XP installation disc to install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac.

Once installation is complete, users can restart their computer to run either Mac OS X or Windows XP.

"Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple's superior hardware now that we use Intel processors," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing.

"We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch."

Boot Camp simplifies Windows installation on an Intel-based Mac by providing a simple graphical step-by-step assistant application to dynamically create a second partition on the hard drive for Windows, to burn a CD with all the necessary Windows drivers, and to install Windows from a Windows XP installation CD. After installation is complete, users can choose to run either Mac OS X or Windows when they restart their computer.

The public beta is preview software licensed for use on a trial basis for a limited time.

Apple does not provide support for installing or running Boot Camp and does not sell or support Microsoft Windows software.

Boot Camp requires an Intel-based Mac with a USB keyboard and mouse, or a built-in keyboard and TrackPad; Mac OS X version 10.4.6 or later; the latest firmware update; at least 10GB of free space on the startup disk; a blank recordable CD or DVD; and single-disc version of Windows XP Home Edition or Professional with Service Pack 2 or later.

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