updated 04:05 pm EDT, Mon August 6, 2007
VMware Fusion debuts
VMware on Monday shipped the final release version of its virtualization environment for Mac OS X, Fusion -- as noted last Thursday. MacNN sat in on a conference call with Pat Lee, product manager of VMware Fusion, who gave us a guided tour of the release's functionality, and a comparison to the current leader (in terms of market share) in Intel-based Mac virtualization, Parallels Desktop. Lee started off by mentioning that VMware (which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of EMC Corporation) invented x86 virtualization about 9 years ago, and gave a brief history of the virtualization movement, dating back to usage on mainframes in the 1960's. He then launched into a discussion of VMware Fusion has a Mac-specific product. "VMware Fusion was built from the ground up for the Mac. It's built as a Cocoa application," Lee said.
He then discussed some of what makes the installation and usage process seamless with VMware Fusion, relative to Parallels. The installation process, for instance, requires only that the user answer some brief questions and insert a Windows disc -- the installer takes care of the rest. "You don't need to answer questions like 'do I want NTFS or FAT32'" said Lee.
There's also a Boot Camp auto-detect function, somewhat similar to Parallels, that allows the user to simply select a pre-existing Boot Camp partition and press run.
Designed to rival Parallels' "Cohesion" functionality, VMware's Unity let's users run Windows applications like Mac applications. They can be minimized to the Dock, and adhere to other Mac-compliant application standards. You can also drag and drop files from the Finder to a Windows app running under Unity. For instance, if you are running Outlook in Windows, you can drag an attachment to into a newly created email message.
Fusion supports over 60 operating systems, including Windows 3.1 through Longhorn, Linux, Solaris and others. Unlike Parallels, it supports 64-bit versions of Windows and other operating systems, including Ubuntu 64-bit. The tool also allows use of multiple virtual processors with multiple virtual machines, making it possible to run 64-bit and 32-bit operating systems simultaneously.
Making a direct comparison to Parallels, Lee said that VMware generates "less overhead, and puts less strain on your Mac than other solutions." Lee also said that only VMware supports more than 1.5GB of RAM in a virtual machine (in fact, it supports up to 8GB).
With regard to gaming, Lee said that while the company couldn't comment on future product direction "3D is important, and something we're looking into". He also noted that users will experience better gaming performance with a dedicated GPU rather than Intel's integrated graphics chip, though the latter is still supported.
Another nicety of VMware fusion is the fact that the virtual hard disk grows into its specified size. In other words, if you create a 20GB disk, it will not occupy all of that space immediately. It will only occupy more space as files are added.
There are some interesting Mac OS X integration points aside from Unity. You can browse Mac files easily from within Windows, and there's an "Applications" menu that can be used to launch Windows programs instead of the Start button. Also included is a launch palette, which allows you to quickly search through (similar to Spotlight) and launch Windows applications.
The software also includes power management functionality. You can set Windows to automatically suspend itself if, for instance, you are running low on battery.
VMWare Fusion is priced at $80, with a $20 mail-in rebate currently being offered. A 30-day evaluation copy is available.