VMware Fusion 3.0 dumps Windows interface for Mac look

Fusion 3.0's 'Unity' interface overlay swaps the Windows Start taskbar for Mac's Dock and the Windows Search for Spotlight-like search

The upcoming version of VMware's Fusion software for Mac-Windows desktop virtualization includes an interface overlay called "Unity" that erases Windows' long ubiquitous Start taskbar in favor of Mac OS X's Dock, and replaces the Windows Search with one closely resembling Mac OS X's Spotlight search box.

"We got rid of the Start menu because we wanted to give you a Mac-like experience via Unity," said Pat Lee, director of personal desktop products at VMware.

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Leveraging Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard's 64-bit core, Fusion 3.0 will also be the first version to support Windows' advanced graphical features, such as Aero, Aero Peek, and Flip 3D, features largely considered to have been pioneered or inspired by Apple's Mac operating system.

VMware's willingness to dump two long-running aspects of the Windows interface in favor of a Mac-like take on them shows the company's cooptative relationship with Microsoft. Though dependent upon Windows for Fusion, VMware competes heavily with Microsoft on the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and server virtualization side.

A company spokeswoman said by e-mail, "Microsoft makes it a practice not to comment on products we haven't seen."

Dan Englander, a Web designer in Concord, Mass., who has been beta-testing Fusion 3.0, said in a blog post, "Fusion 3.0 seems faster and more responsive than 2.0." Windows' Aero graphical desktop "runs well," while the Unity feature allows his Windows apps to show up on the Mac dock, ready to be launched, he said.

Available Oct. 27, five days after the release of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system, Fusion 3.0 will also run Windows on a Mac faster and more efficiently than prior versions of Fusion. For instance, an idle virtual machine of Windows 7 under Fusion 3.0 will only use about 5 percent of the processor's power, Lee said.

Lower CPU utilization means lower power usage, Lee said, and addresses the complaint that running Windows under Fusion quickly drains the MacBook battery. Lee said he can run Windows' Outlook e-mail via Fusion 3.0 on his MacBook Pro as long as four hours.

"I feel we've made good progress on reducing overhead," he said, adding that Fusion 3.0 will be more efficient with Windows 7 and XP than with Vista.

Available immediately for pre-order, Fusion 3.0 lists for $79.99 for a full retail copy, and $39.99 for an upgrade.

Fusion 3.0 will apparently beat rival Parallels 5.0 to the market. Its maker Parallels Inc. did not respond to a request for comment. In beta now, Parallels 5.0 will reportedly also include support for Aero and faster, more efficient performance.

Fusion 3.0 will support the DirectX 9.0c and OpenGL 2.1 multimedia APIs -- enough, said Lee, to let users play Windows action games such as Portal or Lego Star Wars on Macs. Fusion 3.0 also lets viewers watch 1080p video, as did its prior version 2.

To support these games and Windows graphical features such as Aero, Lee said, Mac hardware with an ATI Radeon 2600 or Nvidia 8 series graphics chip will be needed. One or the other came standard on all Macs in the past two years, he said.

Fusion 3.0 also lets users more easily migrate their copies of Windows on a PC into virtual machines running on a Mac. OEM versions of Windows that came pre-installed on a PC, however, are not eligible to be migrated to a Mac, according to Microsoft licensing rules, Lee said.

Citing NPD Group's data on U.S. retail sales of Fusion since its first release in August 2007, Lee said that Fusion leads the market over Parallels with just over 50 percentage share. A number of companies and schools have bought 4,000 copies of Fusion, Lee said, although he declined to name them.

This story, "VMware Fusion 3.0 dumps Windows interface for Mac look" was originally published by Computerworld.

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