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Apple Computer Inc.’s new Intel-based computers have partners swelling with anticipation as they count the days to get their hands on demo units.

Jon Nitto, president of Apple Specialist RetroTechs Inc., of Atlanta, said he expects to receive an Intel-based iMac in several days, at which point he will likely drop everything to check it out.

Apple’s unveiling last week of Intel processor-powered iMacs and a new notebook line called MacBook Pro generated a lot of interest, Nitto said, even from people who generally won’t go near a Macintosh computer.

“I’m itching to try it,” a systems administrator of Intel-based Windows machines told Nitto in an e-mail.

This kind of enthusiasm, say Apple partners, bodes well for the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker. If the so-called Mactel computers are what they’ve been cracked up to be, Apple should expect an increase in market share from its current estimated 5 percent, partners said.

“It’s a great move,” said Marcial Velez, president of Xperteks, an authorized Apple partner in Manhattan. “I think Apple really had no choice; the IBM-Motorola chipset wasn’t getting any faster.”

Velez was referring to the PowerPC processors Apple has used for years. Analysts and partners say desktop performance has kept up, but notebooks have lagged.

“While Apple’s previous laptops were reasonably fast, they couldn’t keep pace with their desktop line,” said Nitto. “Because of this, we’ve seen a trend of Mac owners using Windows-based laptops.”

Click here to read more about Apple’s first Intel-based Mac.

The Mactel machines potentially will offer users the best of both worlds—that is, if plans to have the native Mac OS and Windows operating system coexist on the machines come to fruition. Microsoft Corp. said last week it will port Virtual PC for Mac to the Intel-based Macs, enabling users to run Windows at near-native speeds.

“We are committed to moving forward with Virtual PC,” said Amanda Lefebvre, marketing manager for Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit.

Virtual PC will not force users to reboot their computers to switch between operating systems. But there also has been some speculation that machines eventually will have a dual-boot option for Windows and Mac OS, though Apple has made no official announcements on this.

“This ability would allow the MacBook Pro, and future Macs with Intel processors, to gain entry into the predominantly PC-based corporate world,” said Nitto.

The current version of the Mac operating system, OS X, allows reasonably seamless integration with any network environment, but corporate IT departments typically resist it because they would have to support Mac users, something most are not equipped to do.

In a dual-boot configuration, said Nitto, a user needing OS X-based applications could use a single machine with which he or she would also access Windows-based custom databases, back-office applications or e-mail, said Nitto.

“This also has advantages at home. Imagine one machine with two users at home, each with a personal preference for what OS they want to run. If you can fill that need with one computer, that alone will increase interest and sales,” Nitto said, adding in jest: “Imagine all of the marriages it will save.”

Despite the advantages of having both operating systems in one machine, some new issues could crop up. The security problems that have plagued PC users could start affecting Macintosh adherents, who have been spared for the most part.

Velez said it might be possible to prevent security problems if the operating systems are partitioned off completely, but he has some concerns.

Nitto already has started recommending Intel-based machines to some clients, pending his own evaluation.

Velez is being more reserved. He said he wants to use one before deciding whether to recommend it to clients. Though he has high hopes for the Intel-based Macintoshes, Velez has some questions.

For one thing, he is skeptical about Apple’s claims the new machines run four or five times faster than existing models. Velez also wonders if the Rosetta code translator, which allows the applications written to run on the PowerPC chips to run with Intel processors, will slow them down.

“If that bridge doesn’t work well, the applications won’t run well; they will crash,” he said.

But potential issues aside, Velez and other partners are mostly optimistic about the prospects of Intel-based Macintosh computers. They see the potential for increased business and welcome the idea of more interplay between the two operating systems, especially since most partners these days handle both PCs and Macs.