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VMware Releases Fusion for Mac, Reaches Out To Blogosphere

VMware Fusion DesktopMonday, I was given an opportunity to attend a presentation by VMware related to the release of VMware Fusion. Many bloggers were invited–myself included. Apparently, they wanted an opportunity to answer a question I raised before: Parallels Versus VMware Fusion: Why One Over The Other? I got to ask my question directly and got an answer.

The VMware folks really designed Fusion from the ground-up as a Mac-first application. It’s Cocoa-native. (Cocoa is the Mac’s graphics layer). It supports customizable toolbars. Less memory overhead. It supports both 32 and 64 bit operating systems. Multiple processors are supported in a virtual machine–which would be fantastic on a MacPro! You can also allocate up to 8gb of RAM to a virtual machine–did I say this would be fantastic on a MacPro? Oh yeah, and you can run more than one VM at once (Parallels does this too).

If you are testing with both Parallels and VMware, like I am, make sure you boot into Windows thru BootCamp first. This is because unlike Parallels, VMware does not require a modified hardware abstraction layer. I noticed with an earlier beta that my BootCamp partition would no longer boot after installing Parallels, likely because I didn’t do what the VMware folks suggested.

During the demo, I did see a couple of things that were cool: more complete integration with Expose. Windows XP applications appeared in their own windows and properly integrated with Expose. On Parallels, all of the Windows XP applications appear as “one blob,” even when you’re running in Coherence mode. The other thing that I thought was neat was drag-and-drop between Mac and Linux! Drag a file from the Mac onto your Linux desktop (running in VMware).

The other nice thing is that the VMware application has an applications menu that directly accesses the Start menu in Windows XP. That means you don’t need the Start menu to start applications. Very slick!

Looking at the competitive matrix provided by VMware, there are a number of features that VMware provides that Parallels does not. The integration with Linux/Solaris is certainly much better. Compatibility with other VMware products is also a huge plus, considering how prevalent VMware is out there. There are, however, a couple of points where Parallels differs:

  • No “Start Menu” in Mac OS X dock. Not sure what this refers to really, other than maybe access to the whole Taskbar.
  • Boot Camp Support for Windows Vista. Supposedly, Parallels does a better job of this than VMware. I have no way to evaluate this, seeing as I don’t have a copy of Windows Vista.
  • Multiple VM Snapshots. This came up on the conference call. They acknowledged this as a limitation and I get the impression they are working on it.
  • Print Passthrough to Host Printer. This is a feature I use, given I am having to use Windows XP under Parallels in order to access the corporate network while my work laptop is being replaced. I can work around this, but I’m hoping the VMware guys look into fixing this.

Some things I will have to test include:

  • Multiple screen support. Parallels seems to only want to use one of my two screens. I’ll have to check if VMware handles multiple screens any better. I hope so with the Expose support.
  • Performance with multiple VMs. I tried this with Parallels and was not happy with the performance. Supposedly, VMware performs better. We’ll have to try that and see.
  • How well the integration between Mac and Windows desktops really works. Demos are one thing, usability is another.
  • Will it import VMs from Parallels?

In any case, I think this product is worth a serious look. If you use non-Windows OSes under VMs, VMware is the clear choice. For Windows, I think it depends on your exact requirements. That being said, for a 1.0 product, VMware Fusion is very strong. Their years of virtualization experience clearly shows in this product.

Have you used VMware Fusion and/or Parallels on the Mac? What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments.


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