A little more than a year ago, I reviewed VMware's Fusion 1.0. Since then, the products has undergone a major revisions, so I thought I'd give it another look.  Fusion, now in Version 2.0.1 is a sort and paste between the guest and your Mac - depend on them. Both packages make installing the guest tools easy for Windows users and doable for Linux users.

Fusion has long had the ability to take snapshots of the state of the machine and undo any changes later.  In this release, VMware has added auto snapshots: auto snapshots are taken on a scheduled basis as a way of protecting your machine whether you remember to take a snapshot or not.

The product performed well on the basics, so I decided to dig into some of the corners where virtualisation products have typically lagged to see how they stacked up.

Preserving a true Windows experience

In the previous version of Fusion, I had trouble getting printing to work. There are some improvements in this new version, and I'm happy to report it prints reliably. VMware has supplied virtual print drivers that act as shims between the Windows environment and the Mac printer drivers. There's almost nothing to do. You enable the printer and print. Fusion uses the drivers already installed in OS X to do the work.

One of the places where VMware claims an improvements is in 3-D graphics. I ran a few programs that make use of 3-D graphics and DirectX to see how they fared. I also ran these same programs on a ThinkPad T60 just to make sure I knew how they ought to look in physical hardware with a stock video card. The first program I tried was Microsoft's World Wide Telescope (WWT). This exactly is the kind of program a Mac user might want to run inside a virtualised environment because it's very cool and available only on Windows. WWT on Fusion was usable, but barely; there were artefacts and annoying jitters.

The second program I tried was Microsoft Flight Simulator. Based on the results of the WWT test, I expected an epic fail, but it actually worked pretty well. It even recognised my USB joystick when I plugged it in without any fanfare. The only hiccup was when Fusion's auto-protect decided to interrupt my landing at Provo Municipal to save a snapshot. Apparently, it doesn't interpret input on the joystick as an indication that someone's using the machine.

People who want to run PC games on their Mac typically use Apple's Boot Camp. My conclusion is that's still a good idea. While Flight Simulator ran on Fusion, the experience is better in Boot Camp. 

Physical-to-virtual conversions

Many people come to the Mac with an existing Windows machine that they'd love to keep using. To make this easy, Fusion includes a tool, Converter,  for converting a physical machine into a virtual machine, known as a P2V conversion. Using it entails downloading it to the Windows machine from the VMware site, then using a helpful wizard to configure the conversion. A few things confused me: First, the tool defaults to creating guests for VMware's enterprise product ESX. Second, when you select the type of guest VM to create, Fusion 2.0 isn't listed. I correctly guessed that the Fusion 1.x option would work, but less technical users might balk at that point.

The conversion took one hour and 20 minutes and worked flawlessly, but there were quite a few little details to get right. For example, the virtual machine that Converter creates isn't directly usable by Fusion; you have to create a new virtual machine from the disk image that Converter created. VMware provides a video that walks you through the process; I recommend you watch it before using Converter. Be sure to have a large USB drive on hand to write the guest images on to. You don't want to store the new guest back to the drive you're cloning.

When I run Fusion on my Mac, I'm usually running Linux. That's not typical; the target  is Windows users. While both do an admirable job of running Linux, their most impressive features are aimed at Windows users.

If you're someone who needs to run one or two Windows applications all the time, you'll be a big fan of the way this platform integrates the Windows and Mac experience. Unity, in Fusion, let Windows application windows run inside the native Mac Desktop - hiding the Windows Desktop in the process. I've used this mode on both platforms extensively without any issues.

Fusion is a native Cocoa application, which means that Mac users will feel right at home. For example, if you want to share a folder on your Mac with the Windows machine, just open up Fusion preferences, click on the sharing preference pane, and drag the folder from Finder onto the Sharing pane. That's it. The next time you look in your shared folder inside Windows, the new folder will be available.

 Whether you're brand-new to the Mac and want the security blanket of bringing your Windows desktop along or you're a veteran Mac user who needs to run the occasional Windows program, Fusion will suit you well. The competition between these platforms has served users nicely, and we're left with a choice between two strong-performing, easy-to-use applications. That's a good place to be.

OUR VERDICT

The upgraded version of Fusion offers plenty for the user. The latest revisions have made the fusion between Mac and Windows even more intuitive.