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Friday, December 22, 2006, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

VMware, Parallels release new virtualization betas for Mac

VMware and Parallels, two software developers set to duel it out for a share of the Mac virtualization market, have recently released new betas of products that let users of Intel Macs run Microsoft's Windows operating system alongside Mac OS X.

Parallels was first to market with its solution dubbed Parallels Desktop, which made its debut earlier this year to much fanfare. The $80 virtualization software has been the recipient of many favorable reviews and adopted a strong following from users who want to run both the Mac OS X and Windows simultaneously on their new Intel Macs.

Parallels Desktop is largely considered by Intel Mac users to be a more capable alternative to Apple's Boot Camp software because it does not require users to reboot their Macs in order to switch between operating system.

For its part, Apple has also openly praised the advantages offered by Parallels, plugging the software in versions of its "Get a Mac" television advertising campaign and carrying copies for sale at its international retail chain.

Though there has been ongoing industry discussion that Apple would eventually morph its Boot Camp software into its own virtualization solution that would rival Parallels, company executives have stated at least twice that it has no plans to do so.

The most recent comment on the matter came from Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer, who recently reiterated in a sit-down meeting with Bear Stearns analyst Andy Neff that the company will not enter the embedded virtualization market.

"Apple indicated that it is very pleased with Parallels software and didn't feel the need to compete with its own version of embedded virtualization," Neff wrote in a note to his clients following the meeting.

Parallels Desktop Beta 2

In a public "Beta 2" release of Parallels Desktop this week, the Renton, Wash.-based software developer rolled out a plethora of new features that were previously detailed in a Dec. 1 AppleInsider report, including tight integration with Boot Camp partitions. The release also adds a new user interface, USB 2.0 support, an improved coherence mode and the ability to burn optical discs under Windows.

VMware joins the party with Fusion

At the same time, Parallels is bracing itself for some stiff competition from VMware, which on Friday released the first public beta of a competing virtualization product carrying the "Fusion" moniker.

"Fusion is the codename for a new VMware desktop product for Mac that will enable Intel-based Macs to run x86 operating systems, such as Windows and Linux, in virtual machines at the same time as Mac OS X," the company told testers in an email announcing the public beta program. "It is built on VMware's robust and advanced desktop virtualization platform that is used by over four million users today."

VMware said Fusion can run any of the over 360 virtual appliances available at its Virtual Appliance Marketplace. The pre-built and pre-configured applications come bundled with an operating system so they can run on any hardware or operating system, the company said. Some of the appliances featured on its marketplace are Astaro Security Gateway, B-hive Transaction Visibility Manager, Proofpoint Messaging Security Gateway, Loadbalancer, and SpamTitan.

Similar to Parallels Desktop, initial features of Fusion include USB 2.0 support, drag-and-drop of files and folders between Mac OS X and Windows, and support for all Intel Mac hardware — including the new 64-bit Mac Pro and iMac. However, Fusion offers a distinct capability in allowing users to designate multiple virtual processors in order to leverage the dual-core Core Duo chips available in the latest Intel Macs.

Where to get the goods

VMware's Fusion beta along with documentation (PDF) and an FAQ are available from the company's website. Similarly, information on the latest beta of Parallels Desktop is also available from the Parallels website.