VMware's Fusion Wish List: Better Graphics For Mac - InformationWeek

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VMware's Fusion Wish List: Better Graphics For Mac

Besides making the Mac a better machine for playing 3-D PC games, it would also open up the computer for running Windows-based computer-aided design applications.

VMware, which is getting ready to release the final version of Fusion 2.0 at its trade show next week, is hoping to boost the graphics performance further in the next version of the virtualization software for the Apple Macintosh.

In an interview Friday with InformationWeek, VMware executives said the company is looking to improve its software's ability to render 3-D applications through "native access" to the Mac hardware.

"The hardware today is not designed to be shared" through a virtual machine, said Pete Kazanjy, head of Fusion product marketing at VMware.

This is not to say that Fusion 2.0, which is expected to be launched at the VMworld conference in Las Vegas, does not currently support 3-D. The latest version of the software for running Windows or Linux on the Mac supports DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2, which lets users play select PC-only 3-D games in Windows XP. DirectX is Microsoft's collection of application programming interfaces for handling multimedia-related tasks, particularly game programming and video.

But to push the envelope further, beyond what Microsoft and Apple offer in software, VMware is looking for better virtualization technology in the Mac hardware, particularly the graphics processor. Apple could help by leaning on its vendors, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices' ATI division, to build better virtualization support in the chips, VMware said.

Besides making the Mac a better machine for playing PC games, it would also open up the computer for running Windows-based computer-aided design applications, said Pat Lee, group manager for consumer products at VMware.

Frank Gillett, analyst for Forrester Research, sees gaming, CAD, and other specialized applications as filling the 20% of the market not yet reached by VMware and its rival Parallels on the Mac. Today, the vendors satisfy about 80% of Mac customers who also want to run Windows applications.

The ability to expand beyond the software that runs well on a Mac virtual machine today will become more important, if Mac sales continue to rise and Apple gains a larger share of the PC market. "We're talking about an incremental shift," Gillett said.

While the Mac remains a small player in the business market, it's growing in popularity among consumers. Apple ranks fourth in the home notebook PC market in the United States, according to MetaFacts.

In July, Apple reported a 41% increase in Mac shipments for the quarter ended June 28, compared with the same period a year ago. Revenue rose by 43%.

Besides the consumer market, Apple traditionally has done well in the education market and among creative professionals, such as graphic designers.

For more on virtualization, InformationWeek has published an independent survey of the marketplace. Download the report here (registration required).

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