Virtual Windows on a Mac coming to stores

Retail stores are set to start selling Parallels' software for running Windows and Mac OS side by side on an Intel Mac.

Apple Computer retail stores will soon start selling Parallels' virtualization software, allowing users to run Windows and Mac applications simultaneously.

The Apple Store, CompUSA, Staples, Office Depot, Fry's Electronics and Amazon.com have all lined to up to offer Parallels Desktop for Mac over the next 30 days, Parallels is expected to announce Tuesday. Owners of Macs with Intel's processors can use the software to run Windows XP in a virtual machine alongside the Mac OS, and move data back and forth between Windows and Mac applications.

Apple offers similar software in a beta program known as Boot Camp. Boot Camp allows users to run Windows XP on a Mac, but to switch over to Windows, the user has to shut down first and reboot in Windows. Parallels' software can switch between the Mac and Windows operating environments without having to reboot the system.

The next version of the Mac OS will include the Boot Camp software, but it's not clear whether Mac OS X 10.5 will support virtualization software like Parallels. Apple has not confirmed any plans, but bloggers and Apple enthusiasts have speculated about the possibility.

Parallels Desktop for Mac costs $79.95. It will still be available on Parallels' Web site as retailers start to make the software available over the next month.

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