VMware Fusion improvements close gap on Boot Camp for dual-boot Macs

Erik Eckel concedes that the recent VMware Fusion release is coming close to replacing his favorite dual Mac-Windows boot solution, Boot Camp. He highlights its best features.

Erik Eckel concedes that the recent VMware Fusion release is coming close to replacing his favorite dual Mac-Windows boot solution, Boot Camp. He highlights its best features.


Let me start by stating, I'm a Boot Camp user. My office mates are true-blue Fusion fans, with Parallels Desktop seeming to have fallen from front-running favorite to third-choice within a few short years. But every day I go to work running Windows 7 Professional on a MacBook Pro using Boot Camp.

The ensuing best Mac dual-boot debate ranks among the more impassioned discussions we have in the office. But I make no apologies. When everyone upgraded to Snow Leopard, the Fusion users quickly discovered trouble. I had no issues. When performance was at stake, as a Boot Camp user, I benefited from Windows' ability to leverage both CPU cores.

Change is afoot, however. VMware, easily the virtualization leader, introduced new advances in the Fusion 3 product released in late October. Four improvements, in particular, have me rethinking my Boot Camp strategy.

Improved CPU performance

VMware engineers have tuned Fusion 3 to improve multiple core performance. With full support for four way symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) and improved multi-core awareness, Windows sessions that run inside Fusion 3-powered virtual machines better leverage CPU capacity.

New 64-bit technology also better enables maximizing performance from the 64-bit Intel chips Apple uses in its Macs. New native 64-bit core engines help virtual machines perform faster than in the past, while retaining support for 32-bit kernel operations.

Better graphics support

Fusion 3 now supports Windows Aero, as well as 3D gaming. Compatibility with DirectX 9.0c and OpenGL 2.1 means Mac users can now access Windows' more advanced graphics capabilities within virtual machine sessions.

Multiple display compatibility

VMware Fusion 3 enables Mac users to use multiple monitors when running Windows. Multiple monitor performance is also improved, particularly for large monitors displaying resolutions exceeding 4096 pixels on most Macs. This is an important consideration for professionals maintaining a separate monitor for email and presenters, who frequently deliver slide shows to clients, organizations, and different business groups.

Open Outlook attachments on the Mac

With Fusion 3, Mac users can open Outlook attachments from Windows sessions using Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Office applications installed within the Mac OS. Users only need to drag the files from Outlook to the corresponding application icon on the Mac's Dock.

Still booting Boot Camp

All these improvements aside, I'm still a Boot Camp user. My office is heavily dependent upon QuickBooks Enterprise, which requires a reliable Windows session. I also notice that Boot Camp enables me to avoid many of the common USB and print configuration issues that plague many virtual machine users.

Since my office's other killer platform is an Exchange server, which hosts email, shared calendaring, critical tasks, and contacts information, I've become a heavy Outlook user. However, I've noticed Snow Leopard's new Exchange support enables me to access and edit calendar, email, task, and contacts information without requiring Microsoft Outlook (or Entourage). So I'm considering deploying a Fusion 3 trial. Fusion will even locate my existing Boot Camp partition and create a virtual machine using the existing Windows installation.

What do you use?

If you dual-boot Windows on a Mac, what's your preference, and why? I'd enjoy hearing how other corporate users configure Macs and Windows in their enterprises.


Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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