Will VMware achieve fusion?

VMware Fusion bannerOver the Christmas break, one of the things I began to look at was VMware’s virtualisation for Mac beta product (codenamed Fusion).

Regardless of the somewhat dubious choice of codename (some might say unimaginative – why is it that every company seems to have a product or project about joining things up called fusion?) this is an exciting new product because it brings cross-platform virtualisation to the Mac (previously VMware products either used a proprietary kernel or were hosted on either a Windows or Linux platform). Until recently, Mac users had a choice of Microsoft Virtual PC, Parallels Desktop, or the open source QEMU (with the QemuX front end) but the product of choice for many seems to be Parallels Desktop and Microsoft’s departure from the Mac virtualisation marketplace (combined with a surge in Mac sales since Apple’s switch to an Intel processor platform) seems to have spurred VMware into taking their place and so far the results seem impressive.

Although many cite Parallels as the virtualisation product of choice on the Mac, many of the comparisons I’ve seen have been centred around two totally different technologies for running Windows on a Mac, comparing Parallels Desktop (virtualisation) with Apple Boot Camp (dual-booting). Even though the recent Parallels beta has taken a huge step with a feature called coherence, that allows the Windows desktop to be hidden so that Windows applications appear to be running within Mac OS X (yes, really!), the major advantage to me of using a VMware product is being able to take a virtual machine and run it on any platform.

I’m not sure how VMware are planning to position this product – it offers far more than VMware Player, and seems to have a lot in common with VMware Workstation (although as it’s a beta product, it’s too soon to see how closely matched the feature sets are); they’ve also yet to confirm whether or not this will be a free virtualisation product (I suspect not). I’ll be watching this space and once I can provide full VM portability between the Linux notebook I use for work and my Mac at home (the release notes for the current beta download state that “Virtual Machines created with this beta release of VMware Fusion for Mac should not be used in production, and should not be shared for use in other VMware products”), I’ll be able to work on my 20″ monitor from the Mac and free up some more desk space where the laptop currently sits. If VMware can also provide an equivalent of Parallel’s coherence functionality then they truly will achieve fusion.

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