Docker for Mac and Docker for Windows, which debuted as beta products earlier this year, provide developers on those platforms with something that had always seemed out of reach: the ability to do container work with Docker as a native application.
Originally, the desktop editions of Docker on both platforms used VirtualBox to provide a virtualized environment for running containers. Docker has replaced that with each platform's native virtualization technology: the Apple Hypervisor Framework on the Mac and Microsoft Hyper-V on Windows. User feedback also led the company to add workflow features like the ability to live-debug running containers with IDE integration.
Docker for Mac and Windows is available in both stable and beta-test editions -- much the same way Google offers the Chrome browser. Most developers will want the former, but those who prefer to experiment with bleeding-edge features (and assess late-breaking bug fixes) can opt for the beta-test edition.
Docker for the desktop wouldn't be much good without Docker itself, so Docker for Mac and Windows come bundled with the latest edition of the Docker Engine, 1.12.
In earlier changes, Swarm orchestration technology was directly integrated into Docker, where before it was an add-on. Under the swarm mode moniker, this revision was a challenge to third-party orchestration frameworks like Kubernetes. Changes in version 1.12 further enhanced swarm mode as a way to deploy a highly resilient application with nothing more than what's in the box. Swarm mode runs faster, mainly by minimizing the amount of information that has to be written to each node's data store and now uses secure networking by default, so it doesn't have to be manually enabled.
A major upcoming milestone for Docker, both for desktop and server/ops, will be the formal introduction of Docker containers as a native component of Windows Server. That's set to be a part of Windows Server's next release, although it seems unlikely the feature will trickle down to desktop Windows 10 users -- not now, at least.
But with the success of developer-centric features in Windows 10 like the Linux subsystem, direct support for Docker containers seems worth adding in a future version.