Mac virtualization face-off: VMware Fusion 5 vs. Parallels Desktop 8
Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion support are promoted but existed in previous versions. So what else is new?Follow @MobileGalen
It's a rare year that sees updates to both OS X and Windows, but 2012 marks such an occasion. About a month after Apple released OS X Mountain Lion and two weeks after Microsoft finalized Windows 8 (not shipping until Oct. 26 but available for download by developers and Microsoft partners) come updates to two products that bring the two OSes together.
Those products are VMware's Fusion and Parallels Desktop, which let you run Windows, OS X, Linux, and Chrome OS virtual machines on OS X hosts. Both Fusion 5 and Parallels Desktop 8 extend the host support to OS X Mountain Lion and the client VM support to Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion. Both cost $50 for an upgrade from a recent version. New Fusion licenses also run $50, while new Parallels licenses cost $80. Note that both VMware and Parallels offer enterprise editions that provide the kind of policy management of Windows VMs that IT often imposes on actual Windows PCs.
[ Also on InfoWorld: OS X Mountain Lion vs. Windows 8 | See InfoWorld's slideshow tour of OS X Mountain Lion's top 25 features and test your Apple smarts with our Apple IQ test: Round 2. | Keep up with key Apple technologies with the Technology: Apple newsletter. ]
But if you read the promos carefully, you'll notice not much is actually new. For example, both products' previous versions also run on OS X Mountain Lion and support Windows 8 and Mountain Lion clients, if not quite as smoothly as the new versions do.
Worse, both companies' marketing sometimes implies they offer more than they do. For example, both companies note AirPlay mirroring support as a new feature when, in fact, this OS X Mountain Lion capability requires no changes in an application to support it -- anything on your screen is mirrored, no matter how old it is.
Is either worth the $50 upgrade fee? I don't think so. Worse, for both products, this marks the second time in a row their companies have offered pricey minor updates -- a behavior that users should not support.
VMware Fusion 5: Few new features, and not very savvy ones at that
Since 2011's version 4, Fusion has been my tool of choice for running Windows on my Mac. I'm rethinking that decision with Fusion 5.
First, there's very little useful in the new version -- certainly nothing that justifies the $50 upgrade cost. The big selling point is support for Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion VMs, but Fusion 4 also supported these OSes as VMs. You just had to tell Fusion you were running Windows 7 or OS X Lion, respectively. Because Windows 8 is really Windows 7 plus the Metro environment and OS X Mountain Lion is a minor revision to OS X Lion, telling that little fib when you install either OS into a new VM works fine -- and saves you the $50 upgrade cost to Fusion 5.
When you run OS X Mountain Lion or Windows 8 on Fusion 5, you don't get much more than you do running them on Fusion 4. I saw no differences running OS X Mountain Lion, and for Windows 8, all I got was a few Windows 8-specific shortcut keys such as to open the charms bar or switch to the Windows Desktop.