VMware sets pricing, targets Parallels

VMware announced Monday that it will price its upcoming Windows-on-Mac virtualization software at a price comparable to its rival, Parallels Desktop.

VMware said that its Fusion software can be pre-ordered beginning Tuesday for $40, or for $80 when it becomes generally available near the end of August. Parallels priced its Parallels Desktop version 3.0 at $80 when it became generally available Thursday, with an upgrade price of $40. Both products make it possible for Mac users to run Microsoft Windows simultaneously with Mac OS X.

VMware released Fusion Beta 4 for Macs on Thursday. Besides running Windows OSes, both products can also run Linux and Solaris operating systems.

VMware says one key feature of Fusion, called Unity, allows for seamless transition from Mac to Windows applications. Like Parallels’ comparable “Coherence” feature, with Unity icons for Windows applications will be displayed along with those of Mac applications in OS X’s Dock.

“Unity makes Windows apps work just like Mac apps,” said Patrick Lee, senior product manager for VMware. “The VMware Fusion Launcher allows you to search for and find Windows apps easily from your Mac without having to do anything extra. You don’t need to use the [Windows] start menu. The start menu goes away.”

VMware and Parallels will work with the coming Mac OS X version 10.5, code-named Leopard, due in October. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in a keynote address at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference Monday in San Francisco, said that Leopard will include Apple’s Boot Camp as a standard feature. Boot Camp also enables a Mac computer to run Windows, but not simultaneously.

Jobs said Boot Camp is “a great complement” to Parallels or VMware. “There are three great ways to run Windows on a Mac,” he said, adding that Apple is supporting VMware and Parallels “as much as we can.”

Someone could use either Boot Camp or the Parallels/VMware approach, or both, to give them different options for running Windows applications on a Mac, said Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at research firm Illuminata Inc.

“With Boot Camp, you would boot up into Windows running natively or you would boot up into OS X running natively. With VMware Fusion or Parallels, you’ll boot up into Mac OS X and then will have a hosted Windows virtual machine running on top of OS X,” Haff said.

Haff said that “there is no love lost” between rivals VMware, a subsidiary of EMC, and Parallels, which is owned by SWSoft. While each company touts features that distinguish its product from the competition, Haff believes the products’ features are largely comparable.

It became easier for Macs to run the Windows OS once Apple converted its computer line to Intel chips in 2006.

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