VMware and Parallels go head-to-head on virtualisation

Two makers of virtualisation software for running the Windows operating system on Apple’s computers have issued duelling upgrades this week.


Two makers of virtualisation software for running the Windows operating system on Apple’s computers have issued duelling upgrades this week.

VMware said today it is going to release sometime in June a beta 2 upgrade to its VMware virtualisation software for the Mac, code named Fusion. It will be an upgrade to the desktop virtualisation for Macs product it first introduced in April 2006.

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

Both use virtualisation to run Microsoft'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 the 64-bit and 32-bit encryption protocols, while Parallels only supports the older 32-bit standard.

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

But a key feature of the new Parallels Desktop announced 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, but "it has a different user interface" than Parallels, said Chu. 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.

Although VMware is clearly the industry leader in virtualisation, it's largely focused on enterprise virtualisation 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 virtualising the Mac," Rudolph said.

Parallels' newest version of its Mac product lists for $79.99 (£41.12) although existing users can download the upgrade for free. VMware's currently available version is free, but Chu would not disclose the price at which VMware's beta 2 will sell when it hits the market.

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