VMware goes consumer with Fusion

VMware will enter the consumer software business on Monday when its Fusion virtual machine manager for Apple computers goes on general release. Fusion opens a potentially lucrative new market for VMware just days before the company’s keenly awaited initial public offering (IPO).

Fusion enables Intel x86-based Mac users to run OS X and Windows systems and applications side-by-side, and to cut and paste data between the two. It is a significant functional advance on Bootcamp, the software Apple plans to bundle with the next version of OS X, and which requires users to reboot each time they switch in or out of a native Mac environment. It also appears to have tighter integration with native Mac features than the current market leading product, SWsoft’s Parallels Desktop for Mac.

Fusion and Parallels are both aimed at Mac users that need ad hoc access to Windows software. Typically, the biggest Mac virtual machine users are games enthusiasts who want to access the wider catalogue of games developed for Windows.

However, since Apple introduced its first Intel-based machines last year, a fast growing community of Mac-based professionals has emerged who have adopted Parallels and Fusion as a means of accessing essential Windows-based corporate tools that are either absent or poorly supported on the Mac – such as Microsoft Outlook, or Internet explorer.

The existence of Parallels, and latterly Fusion, is credited with helping Apple become the US’ fastest growing laptop supplier, grabbing almost 13% of the market in the last quarter. Even Mac desktops managed a 10.4% share, prompting some analyst to conclude that a new market is emerging for Windows on the Mac, which some customers see as a more robust and secure client platform than the traditional Windows PC.

With VMware’s IPO expected to go forward on August 14th, the $1 billion turnover subsidiary of EMC is currently generating headlines that should help it raise its profile outside the business-to-business market for server virtualisation products. In that market it is now the clear global leader, credited with controlling 85% of the computer industry’s fastest growing sector.

In SWsoft, however, VMware may find itself competing with a more equally matched opponent. The company’s Virtuozzo operating system level virtual machine manager is the market leader among hosted application service providers, and its sales from virtualisation software grew 734% last year to around $100 million.

Having beaten VMware to market, SWsoft claims to have already sold more than 600,000 copies of Parallels worldwide. According to a SWsoft spokesman, Parallels' sales are not just consumer driven. “We are seeing growing interest from government and education sectors particularly” he said. “We have received orders for several thousand user licenses.”

VMware and SWsoft now look set to go head-to-head in this growing niche market, and from Monday Fusion will appear alongside Parallels on the shelves and websites of retailers such as Fry’s, Amazon, and Apple stores. Both companies say that their recommended retail price is set at $80, although VMware has recently made a pre-release version available for download from its site priced at $39.95 globally.

Further reading

VMware is chasing hosted service providers

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