VMware reports strong initial interest in its virtualisation software designed to run on the Mac, but sceptics doubt it will improve Apple's share of the enterprise market.

About 70,000 people registered for a free download of the software prior to the release of the beta version on 21 December. Since then, about half of those have proceeded with the download, said Srinivas Krishnamurti, director of product management and market development for VMware.

VMware controls the majority of the market for virtualisation software in the x86 server market, but it has never run on a Mac because of Apple's historical reliance on PowerPC chips. With the Mac's migration to Intel processors, that barrier is removed, Krishnamurti said.

Like Parallels, VMware software lets a Mac user run Windows or Linux-based software on the same machine.

This should appeal to businesses that have some Macs in their IT infrastructure but also rely on Windows applications, such as Outlook.

"There are enterprises that buy a PC for their Mac users so they end up running two machines on each desk," Krishnamurti said. "Now they don't have to buy that extra hardware."

If Macs can run Windows or Linux, and the Intel processors are faster than the PowerPC processors Apple used previously, Apple may be able to sell more Macs into the enterprise market, said Schoun Regan, chief executive officer of ITInstruction.com, a company that provides training for Mac users. Regan will be one of the instructors during the MacIT Conference that coincides with the Macworld Conference and Expo.

Although Parallels has first-mover advantage in the market, VMware's dominance in the Windows market may overcome Parallels' lead, said Mike Murray, founder of Episteme.ca, a web-based business for IT career planning.

Although the all-Apple IT infrastructure of his tiny startup consists only of two desktop computers, two notebooks and a file server, he eagerly anticipated the VMware beta, regularly checking VMware's site for the download.

While a Mac devotee, Murray occasionally needs to run Windows programs. "As much as I am a fan of the Mac, it's still a Windows world."

Enterprises much larger than Episteme are using virtualisation to control IT spending by making more efficient use of their hardware.

Virtualisation may make it easier to incorporate Macs into a Windows world, but it still may not improve Apple's share of the enterprise market, said Mark Margevicius, an analyst with Gartner.

Although Apple remains strong in graphic design, publishing and making animated Hollywood movies, Margevicius said, Apple still hasn't aggressively pursued the enterprise market.

"That's still more of a vertical play for them," he said.