Rivals launch dueling Mac virtualization products

Two makers of virtualization software for running the Windows operating system on Apple Inc.'s computers have issued dueling upgrades this week.

VMware Inc. said Friday that a second beta version of its VMware for Macs software, named Fusion, is available now as a free download and that the finished product is scheduled for general availability in June or July. The first beta version of the software was introduced in December 2006.

Rival Parallels Inc. unveiled an update to its Desktop for Macs software on Feb. 27.

Both use virtualization to run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows on an Apple computer and make it possible for the user to switch from Mac to Windows without having to reboot.

Among the improvements in VMware's Fusion is its ability to run Windows-designed 3-D gaming software on a Mac, said Dan Chu, VMware's vice president of emerging products and markets. "There's been a ton of traffic about this on the blogs," said Chu, about discussions by end-users anticipating the beta 2 release.

Chu also noted that Fusion will be able to run software programs written in 64-bit and 32-bit, while Parallels only supports the older 32-bit standard.

True, admits Benjamin Rudolph, a Parallels spokesman. But he said his company will add the 64-bit standard in another upgrade due later this year. It will also offer the 3-D graphics capability Fusion.

But a key feature of the new Parallels Desktop released Tuesday is a program it calls Coherence, which runs Windows applications on Mac's OS X as though they were native. When users switch to Coherence mode, Rudolph said, the Windows desktop disappears but Windows applications, such as Word, Outlook or Internet Explorer run on the Mac desktop and their icons appear in the Mac application dock.

"Coherence in particular, speaks to the innovation we put out here at Parallels," he said. "That's something nobody really has done before."

Fusion also enables merging of Mac and Windows applications, so that the Mac desktop will be visible and a Windows window will open in a portion of the screen from which the Windows applications can be launched. Parallels offers a similar display mode but Fusion "has a different user interface," said Chu.

Although VMware is clearly the industry leader in virtualization, it's largely focused on enterprise virtualization of servers. Parallels focuses on the niche Fusion is going after, that of running Windows on a Mac. "I think we're far ahead of them on virtualizing the Mac," Rudolph said.

Parallels' newest version of its Mac product lists for $79.99, although existing users can download the upgrade for free. VMware's currently available beta 2 version is free, but Chu would not disclose the price for VMware's final version.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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