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VMware Fusion Lets Mac Users Into The App Party

There are those who think of Apple's Macintosh computers as cute little PCs with a bent on graphic design. In past years, those pigeon-holers would have been right.

But VMware is proving that the Mac can handle more sophisticated workloads and (are you sitting down?) even run Windows applications.

The company on Monday will roll out Fusion, which allows Mac users to run Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, Solaris and other applications on a Mac computer. The idea is to help Macs break out of the mold that they can only run applications written for Apple's operating system.

While some computer employees prefer to use a Mac to do work, their corporate offices are typically bent toward Windows applications, such as Outlook and Exchange. Fusion will allow users' Macs to run those applications without complications.

The software allows Mac users to run both 32- and 64-bit operating systems. Fusion also lets users copy and paste text between Mac and Linux or Solaris, or drag and drop files from the Mac desktop to Linux or Solaris. Also, virtual machines created with VMware Workstation, Server or VMware Infrastructure can run on Fusion.

Fusion also has experimental 3-D graphics support to let users play some DirectX 8.1 games in Windows XP Service Pack 2 virtual machines. The software also supports USB 2.0 devices, such as video cameras, high-speed hard disks and GPS devices.

Fusion, which supports more than 60 operating systems, employs power management capabilities to safeguard virtual machines when laptops are running out of battery power.

There has been a good deal of interest in Fusion, as proven by the 250,000-plus downloads since the beta became available last December.

But with Fusion, VMware finds itself in an unfamiliar role. While the EMC  subsidiary kick-started the market for server virtualization, Fusion marks VMware's foray into Mac virtualization.

The software will challenge that from Parallels, an SWSoft company that offers its Desktop for the Mac for running Windows, Mac, Linux and other applications on one Mac machine.

Customers can download Fusion now from VMware, the Apple Store, Amazon.com and other retail outlets for about $79.99, which is, not accidentally, the same price as Parallel Desktop for the Mac.

VMware Fusion comes as the company is preparing for its IPO.

The exchange offer by VMware and EMC has been extended and will now expire at 11:00 a.m. PDT on Aug. 9. The offer had been previously scheduled to expire at 11:00 a.m. PDT on Aug. 6.