VMware Fusion 3 for Mac is now available. That’s right, new virtualization software for your Mac, conveniently timed for the release of Windows 7. Actually, it’s very likely the release of VMware’s latest iteration of its OS virtualization software, Fusion 3, got its release date precisely because of Microsoft’s (s msft) street date for its latest operating system, because Fusion 3 is specially designed to support Windows 7.
Fusion 3 comes just over a year after VMware released Fusion 2, in September 2008. A year is a long time in the life cycle of a piece of software, and in the case of Fusion, the lapsed time between versions shows in the numerous improvements made to the program that allows you to run another OS on a virtualized machine inside of OS X.
As mentioned above, Fusion 3 goes out of its way to make sure your Windows 7 virtualization experience is as seamless as possible. That includes things like support for Windows Aero, Flip 3D and Windows Aero Peek visualization effects, and the ability to run OpenGL 2.1 and DirectX 9.0c, which should help with some of your gaming needs, especially if you’re into older MMOs that don’t have a native Mac client.
VMware’s sales tactics for Fusion 3 also focus on recent switchers who are having trouble adjusting to their new and unfamiliar environment on a Mac. For example, the improved Migration Assistant helps you copy your entire PC onto a virtual machine on your new Mac hardware quickly and easily using an Ethernet connection. VMware goes as far as to say it works “just like” Apple’s own Migration Assistant for setting up or restoring a Mac-based computer.
There’s also a lot of improvements under the hood, including a new 64-bit native core engine for Macs that can handle it. That means that Snow Leopard users will be getting the most bang for their buck with the latest version. Memory usage on all Vista and Windows 7 machines is also greatly reduced, so in general, you should experience much snappier performance.
Finally, a lot of improvements have been made to VMware Fusion’s Mac Unity mode, which makes the virtualization experience much more integrated than it is in its default, windowed configuration. The list of new features is long, but some highlights include the ability to search for Windows apps like Mac ones, assigning the new always-on Applications menu to a hotkey of your choosing, accessing recently opened documents using Windows apps, full Exposé and Dock Exposé support for all Windows apps, and 3D gaming/1080p video playback while in Unity mode.
Fusion 3 retails for $79.99, but if you’re upgrading from Fusion 1 or 2, you qualify for a special price of $39.99, or $59.99 with a subscription that includes major version upgrades for the next 12 months. Judging by the last upgrade schedule which saw Fusion 3’s release falling one month outside that bubble, that subscription option isn’t looking all that appealing. If you’re picking it up, let us know how you find it.