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The Commonwealth Bank has ordered no fewer than 6000 MacBook Air lightweight notebooks from Apple to replace Dell desktop PCs – but will set the Macs up to open up in the ageing Windows XP rather than Mac OS X.

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The Macs are able to run Windows via VMware’s $49 Fusion virtualisation software.

CBA CIO Michael Harte revealed the move to Mac as the jumbo bank moved 6000 staff into the large new Commonwealth Bank Place at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

The models concerned are the 11-inch MacBook Airs, which retail at a starting price of $1099 – suggesting a hardware bill of more than $6 million for the bank.

They have reportedly been configured by integrator Hewlett-Packard to boot directly into Windows XP – still standard OS at the bank, two years after introduction of the more advanced Windows 7.

Harte told Australian IT an internal survey had showed that MacBook Airs were its employees’ device of choice.

Trials were under way for a “bring-your-own device” (BYOD) program which he said would give workers further flexibility.

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