When Apple released Mac OS X 10.7, known as Lion, it became the first client version of Mac OS X that Apple gave express permission to run as a guest operating system within a virtual machine. Sure, it still needed to operate on top of Apple hardware, but users could finally virtualize a client OS without searching for answers in dark and seedy places online.
Virtualization products like VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop for Mac, and VirtualBox jumped all over Apple's announcement and added support for Lion installations. But last week VMware took things one step further. The virtualization giant released its 4.1 update to Fusion, which seemed to add support for nonserver versions of older Mac OS X operating systems like Leopard (10.5) and Snow Leopard (10.6) as guest operating systems.
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Prior to Fusion 4.1, users who attempted to install client versions of Leopard or Snow Leopard were immediately stopped during the installation process. With the 4.1 release, VMware seemed to open the door: Users trying to install either of those client operating systems were met with a new confirmation screen reminding them to "verify that the operating system is licensed to run in a virtual machine." Beyond that, there were no other checks to make sure Apple's EULA was being enforced. The onus of license compliance seemed to have shifted back to users, rather than VMware as the virtualization provider.
Apple's policy on virtualization allows properly licensed copies of Mac OS X Lion (client or server), Leopard Server, and Snow Leopard Server to be virtualized on Apple-branded hardware. But Fusion 4.1 seemed to "allow" client versions of Leopard and Snow Leopard to be virtualized as well -- assuming legally licensed copies of the OS were being used and Apple-branded hardware was in play, of course.
It didn't take long for Mac users to hear the latest news, giving the company one more thing to say thanks for at the dinner table during the holidays. But VMware giveth and VMware taketh away!
VMware, either for internal or external (read: Apple lawyers) reasons, has reversed course on this new "feature" -- or perhaps better stated this unintended capability. According to the company, the confirmation screen was the new feature and the ability to install previously unsupported client OS versions was not.