Apple has taken no steps to prevent Intel Mac users installing Windows on their machines.

"We haven't done anything to explicitly prevent it, but we haven't done anything to encourage it either," Apple senior product line manager Wiley Hodges said of running Windows on Macs during a presentation on Thursday at Macworld Expo San Francisco this week.

Apple introduced two new Intel-based machines, an iMac desktop and the MacBook Pro notebook, at Macworld.

Analysts believe someone will eventually develop a version of Windows that runs natively on the new Intel-based Macs.

Step to choice?

“I have no doubt that a clever person would figure out how to make it work even if Apple doesn’t support it," said Dan Kusnetzky, program vice president at IDC. "I've been amazed at how people have looked at vendor choices and found a way to do what they wanted to do anyway."

Linux could also be an option for users that want to have more than one OS on their new iMac or MacBook, said Bruce Perens, vice president of Seattle-based SourceLabs, an open-source software and services company.

There are already Linux distributions, such as Yellow Dog Linux, designed for the Mac PowerPC architecture, he said, adding that it's only a matter of time before someone comes up with a version of Linux for the Intel-based Mac platform. "It probably just needs to be tested and tweaked slightly," he said.

In fact, if someone had the desire, they could run the Mac OS, Windows and Linux simultaneously on one of the new Macs, Perens said. "If we take this to its conclusion, you could have three OSs running on these machines at once," he said. "Only a geek would want to do it, but it would be fun."

No plans yet

Apple spokeswoman Teresa Weaver confirmed that Apple has no plans to sell or support Windows, but said the company is doing nothing in its hardware design to preclude their systems from running Windows.

Mac users have been able to run Windows applications on their Macs for some time using emulation software.

The problem with running Mac applications on Windows through emulation has been one of performance, said John Czlonka, president of IEmulator is software that enables Windows applications to run alongside Mac applications on Apple hardware, and will have a new version for the Intel-based machines by the end of February.

"The biggest bottleneck to performance has been in translating code meant for PCs to the PowerPC processor on the Mac," he said. "Every emulation solution has run at a fraction of the speed of native code because of this."

The introduction of Intel-based Mac hardware should make the emulation of Windows applications on the Mac a lot easier and faster, he said.

(Robert McMillan contributed to this article.)