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VMware releases beta for newest Mac virtual machine

Fusion 2.0 lets Intel-based Macs run Windows, Linux and other operating systems

VMware Inc. Tuesday released a public beta for Fusion 2.0, virtualization software that lets Intel-based Macs run Windows, Linux and other operating systems. Fusion 2.0 also adds support for multiple monitors and makes it easier to switch from rivals' virtual machine programs, said the company.

Multimonitor support is a first for Mac virtualization software, VMware claimed in a post to its company blog dedicated to Fusion. Its main competitor, Parallels Inc.'s flagship Parallels Desktop for Mac, lacks the feature.

In Fusion 2.0 Beta 1, users can drag virtual machine (VM) windows among multiple monitors connected to the Mac -- it supports up to 10 screens -- as well as position what Fusion calls "Unity" screens on alternate monitors. Unity is the Fusion feature that strips non-Mac applications from the operating system so that their windows look more like those for Mac apps.

Other additions and enhancements to Fusion in the public beta include 3-D graphic acceleration for Windows XP via support for DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2.0, several improvements to networking support and faster access to USB drives connected to the Mac.

VMware warned users that the DirectX 9.0 support was "experimental" and that "performance may vary dramatically based on hardware and 3-D application."

However, users running Windows Vista in a Fusion VM may still out of luck here, depending on what 3-D application or game they're running; Vista supports DirectX 10.0, which even Beta 1 doesn't touch.

Two once-separate tools for migrating to Fusion from rivals' VM software have also been updated and combined, said VMware. The File menu's Import command imports Parallels Desktop for Mac VMs and those created by Microsoft's now-discontinued Virtual PC for Mac, and it can also be used to convert Apple Boot Camp partitions to virtual machines.

The free download, which weighs in at 300MB, can be found on VMware's Web site.

According to Peter Kazanjy, Fusion's product marketing manager, Version 2.0 will be a free upgrade for all Fusion 1.x users when it goes final. "This is a sincere thank you to our early supporters," Kazanjy said in an e-mail Tuesday morning. VMware has not set a timetable for finishing Version 2.0.

The current production version of Fusion was updated about two weeks ago, when VMware added support for the not-yet-officially-released Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3). Fusion 1.1.2 costs US$79.99 for a single license, $349.99 for five seats and $699.99 for 10.