November 21, 2011, 11:19 AM — This is why virtualization counts for normal people.
On Thursday, VMware released an update to VMware Fusion, a $50 virtualization product that runs on MacOS desktops to run Windows and some Mac OS versions within virtual machines.
The update, VMware Fusion 4.1 makes it easier to run the Leopard and Snow Leopard versions of Mac OS X in virtual machines as well as older versions.
The previous version, 4.0, could run more than 200 operating systems, according to VMware, but included native support for Mac OSX only through OSX Lion.
Being able to run virtual versions of MacOSX desktops on any machine eliminates, for the first time in a directly accessible way, the difference between being a Mac user and being a PC user. Also the difference between a Mac OSX Leopard user and one running Snow Leopard.
It won't cause anyone to switch; it won't reduce the religious war that has devolved into more of a meme than a feud. It won't eliminate the comparatively few remaining compatibility problems between Mac software, file formats and access methods and those of the rest of the world.
It's not even a revolutionary improvement in Mac/PC interaction. VMware's desktop virtualization product VMware View shipped a MacOS client version with offline support in 2010 – meaning it was possible to install both Windows and MacOS virtual machines on the same PC and allow both to store data on the local hard drive so both were usable whether the user was connected to back-end virtualization servers or not.
VMware Fusion was actually designed to do the opposite – allow Windows software to run on Mac hardware.
In that way it's actually an improvement for integration of several versions of MacOS, not as a way to integrate Windows more effectively.
But it gives departments and users that depend on Macs in a Windows world more choice of Mac operating systems and more flexibility in the hardware and applications they choose as well.
It is designed to run more than one OS at a time on one Mac, or switch from one version of Mac OS to another – or Mac OS to Windows and back -- without rebooting.