Apple Computer Inc. won't thwart users from loading Microsoft's Windows operating system onto its new Intel-based Macintosh computers — but don't expect Apple to start offering a Mac running Windows.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in an interview Tuesday that the company won't sell or support Windows itself, but also hasn't done anything to preclude people from loading Windows onto the machines themselves.

"That's fine with us. We don't mind," Schiller said. "If there are people who love our hardware but are forced to put up with a Windows world, then that's OK."

Schiller made the comments at Tuesday's Macworld Expo, where Microsoft also said it had signed a five-year pact with Apple to develop versions of Office for Macs and announced plans to release a version of Office that will be compatible with Apple's new Intel-based computers.

Macs currently run Apple's own proprietary operating system, which competes with Windows. However, since Windows is much more dominant, Mac users don't necessarily have access to many software programs written only for Windows.

Apple on Tuesday unveiled its first computers using Intel chips, which power most PCs using Windows.

The switch could technically and theoretically allow a person to load Windows onto a Mac computer, although the user would require some technical expertise to pull it off. That would allow a person to run both Microsoft and Apple's operating systems on the same Apple machine.

It was news Microsoft Corp. welcomed.

"Any new machines that are on the market that run Windows are great," said Scott Erickson, director of product management and marketing for Microsoft's Mac business unit.

Erickson said it was too early to say how Microsoft might take advantage of an ability to run Windows on Macs, saying only that it could give Mac users the potential to run Windows-based applications they previously couldn't.

Still, Erickson said Microsoft remains committed to offering a version of its Office business software for Macintosh computers.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, wouldn't say when the new version of Office for Macs will be released or what it will cost.

Erickson said the company last released a version of its Office business software for Macs in May of 2004, and Microsoft generally releases updates every two to three years.

Erickson said the five-year deal, in which no money changed hands, should help quell customer concerns that Microsoft will stop developing software for its rival.

"What we wanted to do was just put to rest the question of, 'Hey, are they going to be around now that [Apple is] making a major switch to Intel?'" Erickson said.

This is the second time Microsoft and Apple have signed pledges to work together, although Microsoft has developed software for Macintoshes for more than two decades.