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VMware Fusion 3 beefs up support for Win 7, Snow Leopard, graphics, and performance

By John Rizzo

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yesterday, VMware released VMware Fusion 3 (US $80), a major new version of the virtualization software for Mac OS X. The new version improves CPU and graphics performance for Snow Leopard hosts and Windows 7 guests. It also can automate OS migration from a real PC into a virtual machine, and further integrates Windows applications into the Mac OS X interface.

VMware Fusion 3 is notable as the first product that can run the Windows 7 and Vista Aero 3D graphics features of on a Mac. This includes the Aero theme and Flip 3D and the new Aero Peak feature--the full Windows 7 experience on a Mac. Fusion 3 is also the first Mac virtualization product to support Microsoft's DirectX 9 Shader Model 3 and OpenGL 2.1, making it a better environment in which to run PC games.

Performance gains from under-the-hood improvements

VMware said that Fusion 3 improves performance in a number of ways. On Macs with 64-bit processors, a new 64-bit engine supports the 64-bit Snow Leopard kernel of Mac OS X 10.6, providing performance that can't be achieved on Mac OS X 10.5. VMware said that the new 64-bit engine also improves performance on Leopard for 64-bit Macs.

But Snow Leopard in 64-bit mode get another benefit from Fusion 3 in the form of lower utilization of the Mac's processors--which translates into longer battery life for notebooks. (Mac users can view CPU utilization with the Mac's Activity Monitor utility.) VMware also said that Fusion 4 has optimized drive and graphic performance for Snow Leopard.

There are also some improvements that benefit Windows. In addition to the DirectX and other graphics improvements aimed at Windows, Fusion 3 improves CPU usage. Previous versions of VMware Fusion limited each version of Windows to using two "virtual processors," which were the multiple cores of a Mac each simulated as a processor. Fusion 3 is now aware of multiple cores in a processor, and can allow you to assign more than two virtual processors to a virtual machine. This applies to Windows XP Home and Starter, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

VMware Fusion will use less memory than before when running Windows 7 and Vista. Windows XP will also use less memory, but only if you created the XP virtual machine with Fusion 3.

Windows 7 also gets the Easy Install feature, where Fusion automatically fills in information in the Windows installer screens and progresses through the installation. This was a feature available only for Windows Vista in Fusion 2.

VMware Fusion 3 will run Leopard Server and Snow Leopard Server in a virtual machine, which is useful for testing out a server configuration. (It's also useful if you're writing a book like Snow Leopard Server for Dummies?) A new feature handy for virtualized servers -- Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux -- is the ability to select a specific network adapter for bridged networking mode. This lets you dedicate an Ethernet interface for the virtualized server.

Migrating from Windows PC to virtual machine

VMware Fusion 3 includes a new software utility called Migration Assistant to automate copying a real PC setup into a virtual machine. Migration Assistant (which also comes with VMware Workstation 7, also released yesterday) runs in Windows on a real PC. It collects everything on the PC -- operating system, applications, settings, and documents -- and packages it in a virtual machine.

Migration Assistant also moves the new virtual machine to a Mac over an Ethernet network, or Ethernet or FireWire cable between the computers, or a wireless network.

Windows Integration with Mac OS X

For switchers, Fusion 3 adds an optional menu to the Mac menu bar, an Applications menu that lists Windows applications, even when Fusion is not running. It looks and acts somewhat like a Windows Start menu, but in Mac OS X. Here you can do almost anything that you can with a start menu: pin Windows applications to the list and click All Programs to access other Windows applications. You can also access the Control Panel, My Computer, and Documents, and shut down and restart the virtual machine.

For long-time Mac users, Unity view, which hides the Windows desktop, now supports standard Mac key commands. You can quit a Windows application with the standard Quit command (the Command-Q keys). Command-Tab switches between running Mac and Windows applications, and Command-tilde (~) switches between open windows for a given application. In Snow Leopard, you can use Dock Exposé to switch between the open windows of an open Windows application.

If you've tried VMware Fusion 3

Upgrade to VMware Fusion 3.0 for just $39.99 - Upgrade Now!

Run Windows on your Mac without rebooting -- supports all Windows 7 features including Aero, faster graphics and CPU performance, migrates PC content to a virtual machine.

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