Business-like, isn't he?



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    This Mac and Windows Fusion is well worth considering

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver September 4-10, 2007; issue 932

    High Tech Office column

    Early in August, Apple’s Steve Jobs released new versions of the company’s iMac computer and iLife and iWorks software. Jobs’ announcements pulled eyeballs away from the release the day before of VMware Fusion, virtualization software allowing newer Macs to run Windows and other PC operating systems alongside the Mac’s native operating system.

    While Macintosh users praise their computers’ style, ease of use and freedom from Windows security perils, all too often they find themselves with a document or website that requires Windows-only software. Ways to deal with this include Apple’s free (but beta) Boot Camp allowing owners of recent Intel-powered Macs to install and boot to Windows XP or Vista and Parallels Desktop, a virtualization product that allows Mac owners to run Windows software on their Mac desktop without having to reboot their computer.

    VMware has been a pioneer in developing and marketing PC virtualization. Its software is widely used by software developers needing to ensure their programs run on a range of systems and network managers replacing multiple servers with a single system. Fusion (US$79) is the company’s first Mac product and its first product aimed at consumers.

    Fusion works as advertised, assuming you’ve got an Intel-powered Mac (models released since January 2006) with at least 1 GB of memory and enough free hard drive space to store your desired PC operating system. It works with any Windows version and with Linux and other PC operating systems. As with Boot Camp and Parallels, Windows is not included. You’ll need the CD for whatever version of Windows you want to install.

    Because users will want Windows, Fusion makes it straightforward with an Easy Install option. Choosing it, you enter your user name and the Windows serial number, insert your install CD and Fusion does the rest. It’s much easier than installing Windows on a “real” PC. Come back in half an hour or so and it’s done. (Afterwards, install the included VMware Tools, which improves network and video performance, enables drag and drop between the Mac and Windows desktops, and more; it would be nice if this was done automatically by the Easy Install option.)

    Mac owners who’ve already set up their systems using Boot Camp to optionally boot to Windows will be pleased that Fusion (like Parallels) can be used with that installation, saving on drive space and the time of re-installing Windows, while adding the ability to run Windows applications without having to restart. Unlike Parallels, Fusion notices if there’s already a Boot Camp installation and lets you use it with no further fuss.

    When running Fusion, Windows applications play nice with the Mac experience, appearing on the Mac’s dock. A Unity option makes the Windows desktop seem to disappear; any Windows applications running appear as if they were Mac programs letting users mix and match their preferred Windows and Mac applications.

    Competitor Parallels features a similar feature named Coherence, but Fusion’s Unity is better implemented. But that’s going to be VMware’s biggest problem: differentiating Fusion from the similarly priced Parallels Desktop, which has been available for more than a year and gained market and mind share with Mac users. Fusion offers better performance than Parallels and has better support for high-end features, including support for dual and multiple processors, 64-bit software and large amounts of RAM. But if you just need, for example, to run the Windows version of Internet Explorer to access your bank online, either will do the job just fine.

    And if you’re going to pretend you’ve got a business need for this, but really want to play Windows games on your Mac, you may want to hold off. Both Parallels and VMware are working on improving 3D graphics support in their products, however neither does a great job now. But you don’t really want to play games at work, do you? •

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan