VMware upgrades Mac virtual machine software

Fusion 2.0 is a free update for current users

VMware Tuesday shipped Fusion 2.0, a major update for its virtualization software that lets Intel-based Macs run Windows, Linux and other operating systems. The upgrade is free to current Fusion users.

After a four-month stretch in beta, Fusion 2.0 is ready for prime time, said Pat Lee, a VMware group manager. "We want our customers to see that Windows really is better on a Mac," Lee said in a statement.

Version 2.0 adds multi-monitor support and mirrored folders, as well as support for DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2, crucial for 3D game-playing under Windows XP. Users can now also take and manage multiple "snapshots," VMware's term for saved versions of a virtual machine (VM) -- originally, only a single snapshot could exist at any one time -- and back up existing VMs automatically with a new auto-snapshot tool.

Other changes to the virtualization software include improvements to Unity, the Mac-Windows integration that puts Windows applications in Mac-style windows. Fusion 2.0 also embeds a free 12-month subscription to McAfee's VirusScan Plus anti-virus software in any VM running Windows.

The upgrade can be downloaded and installed free-of-charge by owners of Fusion 1.x; the price for first-time buyers is US$79.99 for a single license, US$349.99 for five seats and US$699.99 for 10. Currently, Fusion 2.0 is available only by electronic distribution from the company's site and several third-party online stores, including those operated by Apple, Amazon.com and Best Buy.

Fusion is one of the several virtualization programs available for the Macintosh. In the commercial arena, it goes head-to-head with Parallels' flagship Parallels Desktop for Mac. Another option is Sun Microsystems's open-source VirtualBox, which can be downloaded without charge.

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