Hot on the heals of the the release of Parallels Desktop 7, VMware has shipped VMware Fusion 4, a major update to the virtualization software for Mac OS X. The new version has 90 new features, including the ability to host virtual machines containing Lion and the new Windows 8 developer preview as guest OS's. VMware Fusion 4 is available for a discounted US. $50 until end of year, with an $80 price tag after that.
VMware Fusion 4 can also run on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, and provides new Lion features to Windows applications when running in Unity mode, which hides the Windows desktop. You can add Windows applications to the Launchpad, work with Windows documents in Mission Control, and use Windows apps in Lion's full-screen mode. Lion's track pad gestures also work with Windows apps.
VMware Fusion has a simple solution to the problem of installing Lion in a virtual machine. (Since Lion doesn't come as a disc image, the standard procedure doesn't work.) If you've had the foresight to save the "Install Mac OS X" Lion installation file, you can simply drag it into the Virtual Machine Assistant window after clicking Create New. You can then update Lion to Lion Server in the normal way through the Apple store if desired.
As with previous versions, VMware Fusion 7 can also run Snow Leopard Server and Leopard Server in a virtual machine.
VMware made some user interface changes to Fusion, including a new collapsible settings toolbar for each virtual machine. There's also a new virtual machine settings window that looks like Mac OS X's System Preferences. There's also a more visual snapshot window for choosing previously saved states. Snapshots also support Time Machine backups.
The new version also improves 3D graphics performance, which has lagged that of Parallels Desktop. VMware says that 3D graphics is up to 2.5 times faster Fusion 4 than in previous versions of Fusion. VMware also claims improved support for AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Altium Designer on Windows XP and Windows 7.
A new pause feature lets you quickly suspend the virtual machine, without having to create a multi-gigabyte snapshot. This will enable you to temporarily releasing processing power in order to use a Mac application or another virtual machine.
Other new features include the ability to encrypt a virtual machine, and the ability to use a remote DVD drive on a Windows PC or another Mac. In order to save hard drive space, can you can now shrink virtual machine disks without removing snapshots. (This is in the General section of the virtual machine settings.) Windows 7 and Vista now have access to HD Audio devices using Microsoft's current audio drivers.
Note that the actual first version number is 4.0.1. VMware issued the update the same day as 4.0. The release notes say that the 4.0.1 update "ensures that disk buffering is enabled when set to automatic."