VMware has announced the general availability of VMware Fusion, which allows Mac users to simultaneously run Mac OS X, Windows and other PC-based applications on Intel-based Macs. The alternative is restarting to run Windows and Windows applications, as Apple's Boot Camp software mandates.

The software allows Mac users to run both 32- and 64-bit operating systems, using two processor cores at the same time, and a variety of USB 2.0 devices, according to the company. VMware also claimed that Fusion is also the only Mac virtualisation software available today to provide support for over 60 operating systems and power management capabilities to safeguard virtual machines when laptops are running out of battery.

VMware claimed over 250,000 downloads of VMware Fusion since its beta became available in December 2006.

“VMware Fusion was designed for Mac enthusiasts looking for a seamless way to run Windows applications on the Mac,” said product manager Dan Chu. “VMware Fusion combines a very clean and intuitive interface that Mac users expect with the world’s most trusted desktop virtualisation platform to allow users to run Mac applications seamlessly alongside PC applications on Intel-based Macs.”

However, VMware is, for once, not the market leader in the Windows-on-Mac virtualisation market. That position's claimed by Parallels with its Parallels Desktop 3.0 for Mac product. The company's an off-shoot of SWsoft, which develops server virtualisation product Virtuozzo and the open source OpenVZ. Parallels launched its third-generation product in June.

Parallels director Benjamin Rudolph said: "We’re confident that we will maintain our leadership role by continuing to respond to the needs of our customers by introducing new groundbreaking technologies - as we did with Coherence and SmartSelect - that make working with multiple operating systems easier, faster, and more productive than ever before."

VMware Fusion is now available online, and will be available through Apple’s retail stores and other authorised retailers worldwide.

It costs exactly the same as Parallels: $79.99.