The virtualization engine won't be available as a product until this summer, but it's available for free download from the VMware site. VMware says pricing for virtualization on the Mac won't be announced until the product is ready for delivery. The beta version became available for download in December.
VMware's entry into the market comes along at an auspicious time. Having converted to Intel chips, Apple's Macintosh is about to harness the greater horsepower of multicore chips, and one of the ways to make use of that power is by running virtual machines. Some analysts following Apple say it's ready to announce high-end Mac Pros at Macworld with four or eight cores. A Mac Pro with eight cores would be built on two quad-core chips from Intel.
With such powerful hardware, it would become more feasible to run Windows or Linux applications alongside Apple applications on the Mac. This would strengthen Apple's position in the desktop market, where it runs a distant second to Windows, to be able to say a Mac may be the only computer you'll need, even if you want to run Windows applications.
"We've combined VMware's advanced virtualization platform with an easy-to-use, native Mac interface," says Srinivas Krishnamurti, director of market development at VMware.
Previous experimentalists have proven it was possible to run Windows on an Intel-based Mac. A VMware-supported Fusion would make that possibility a much more likely scenario.
Software firm Parallels already makes a $79.99 virtualization engine endorsed by Apple called Parallels Desktop for Mac. A 15-day trial version is available at the firm's Web site.
VMware has lead the virtualization market on Intel and AMD-based computers by following up its early success of its initial VMware Server with a hypervisor-based product, ESX Server, and tools to manage multiple brands of virtual machines in one environment.
Last April, Mac owners with Intel-based machines experimentally booted pre-release Windows Vista on their Macs to illustrate that it would run there.