VMware Fusion 3--which enables the use of Windows, Linux and Mac virtual machines on a physical Mac system--goes head-to-head with Parallels Desktop Switch to Mac Edition. The new VMware offering comes up a hair short in ease of use, but edges ahead in operations that matter on a daily basis.
Released on Oct. 27, the $80 VMware Fusion 3 uses a migration agent that made converting an existing PC into a virtual machine on the Mac a straightforward process during my tests (taking about 20 minutes to complete).
The $100 Parallels competitor includes effective video-based training that shows new Mac "switchers" how to perform familiar Windows operations on a Mac. These training supplements, along with a dead-simple transfer process (see my review here), make the Parallels tool a better choice for truly new Mac converts. For Mac pros, VMware Fusion 3 includes slight technology advantages that push it over the comparable Parallels or Sun VirtualBox offerings.
While VMware Fusion 3 is aimed at individual users, the product is a worthwhile choice for IT departments that are switching PC systems to Macs. The VMware migration agent--which is installed on the source computer (the PC)--makes short work of the arduous task of manually reinstalling Windows applications and then moving over user data.
During tests, the VMware Fusion 3 migration tool correctly virtualized a system running Windows XP Server Pack 3 that was loaded on a ThinkPad X40 with an Intel Pentium M processor and 1GB of RAM. My test Mac was a MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard with a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. The process seamlessly brought over the Microsoft Office 2003 suite of productivity applications, Mozilla, the Cisco VPN client and a media player, among other apps.
I didn't need to reactivate my Windows OS nor the Microsoft applications that were ported to my Windows virtual machine. While the VMware Fusion 3 system makes clear that reactivation is sometimes needed, and that creating a virtual machine from a physical system can sometimes be a license violation, I did not experience any activation problems during my tests.
Creating a Windows 7 Virtual Machine
VMware Fusion can integrate or isolate Windows virtual machines from the Mac OS X environment. I created a Windows 7 virtual machine that was integrated, so that applications and documents on my MacBook Pro physical system were easily shared with the Windows 7 virtual machine. In this configuration, the Windows system was able to modify documents in the Mac environment, so antivirus software is recommended. (VMware Fusion comes with a with 12-month subscription to McAfee VirusScan Plus.)
In all my test cases, the wireless connectivity from the virtual machine to the Internet worked as soon as installation was completed, and applications worked as expected. Hardware-specific utilities that were installed on the ThinkPad system, of course, did not work in the Mac, and I simply removed them from the Windows XP virtual machine. I was pleased to see that the absence of the hardware for which these utilities were needed did not panic the VMware Fusion virtual machine.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at email@example.com.