Mac and Windows Fusion is well worth considering
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
September 4-10, 2007; issue 932
High Tech Office column
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.
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
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.
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.
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? •