VMWare released the third installment of it's beta release of Fusion, it's desktop virtualization product for OS X. I wrote some detailed notes at when I explored the Beta 2 release. You can try it out yourself, if you like.
The biggest change that I noticed about the Beta 3 release is that you can now turn off debugging. I don't think it's a huge win in terms of performance, but clearly, if you were going to compare Fusion performance with Parallels, you'd want that off. Of course, even if did make such a comparison, you couldn't write about it because of VMWare licensing restrictions.
VMWare also says that Fusion provides better integration with Bootcamp, the provision Apple made for running Windows on it's hardware, added improved international support, and made some changes to how virtual machines are managed.
One enhancement I wanted to explore was the "easy installation" feature for Windows. When you start a Windows install, you get a screen that asks for the information Windows would normally ask during the course of a normal install.
Filling in that, along with the product key, means that the installation can proceed without much babysitting. One interesting note: once you start the installation, you see this text in a dialog box:
Changes in the virtual machine configuration may require you to reactivate the guest operating system. To minimize those changes, be sure to set the final memory size for the virtual machine and install VMware Tools before you activate Windows XP.
This is just another indication that Microsoft's anti-piracy provisions are more and more out of step with what people do with their product today. When machines are just software, they can be changed on a whim. I may want 1Gb of RAM today for a test I'm doing, but normally want to limit it to 512Mb for other tasks.
The easy install works great until you start to install the VMWare tools on Windows (these allow the guest OS to be better behaved). Then Windows complains loudly, multiple times that the tools aren't "Logo Certified."
Fusion now puts all the files associated with a VM into a bundle, so you can just copy a file, rather than a directory, when you want to share a virtual machine with others. I've been doing this with students and it's a marvelous way to give someone an environment to work in. Of course, make sure you're not violating any licenses if you do that.
Maybe it's always been there, but one small thing about Fusion that I love is that it doesn't "capture" the mouse. I can move the mouse into the VM window and it's a mouse inside the VM. No special key combinations to make the VM release the mouse so you can move to the host OS.
Some other notable features in Fusion that are missing in Parallels: support for 64-bit operating systems, snapshots, and multi-processor support. Snapshots allow you to save the state of a machine, quickly, and then snap back to that state at the push of a button.
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with Fusion--this is a rock solid implementation from a company that knows virtualization well. I don't know what VMWare's planning on charging, but the virtualization marketplace for OS X is definitely heating up.