VMware Fusion 4.1 Enables Broader OS X Virtualization Choice
Apple recently relaxed its virtualization restrictions, allowing users to virtualize Mac OS X on Macintosh hardware. But in the past, it was only capable of virtualizing the same version of Mac OS X the user was running. But now, thanks to VMware Fusion 4.1 and Mac OS X Lion, things are starting to change.
A tip of the hat goes to MacWorld for bringing news of this unique capability to the mainstream. Deep down in VMware Fusion 4.1 release notes, MacWorld found there’s no specific reference to the version of Mac OS X users can virtualize. According to the article:
If you confirm compliance with the applicable [Mac OS X] licenses, [VMware Fusion] proceeds to the next step. This behavior is identical for the Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion releases of Mac OS X and their variants.
Technically, it should all pass muster with Apple’s legal team, since OS X’s license agreement’s requires that OS X software is run only on Macintosh computers. That rule clearly isn’t being broken.
Okay, so great. What benefits would one get from virtualizing older versions of OS X on Mac OS X Lion? The first thing that came to my mind (and MacWorld’s) was the ability to take advantage of Rosetta, the PowerPC emulator built into earlier version of the operating system but removed from OS X Lion. Many users have a wealth of legacy PowerPC applications they want to use for a variety of reasons, but upgrading to Mac OS X has rendered those apps useless. Now, if necessary, users can boot a VM to run a single application they really need.
But there are bigger implications: With rumors floating around about Apple involving itself closer to the enterprise space and Apple’s partner support at a recent ConnectWise event, Apple could be looking to push Mac OS X deeper without Macs altogether simply by licensing out OS X to be virtualized. Since Xserve officially died in January 2011, there’s only been a server option for the large Mac Pro desktop computer for users who want to run OS X server (or the Mac Mini server for low-end needs). I’ve actually been suggesting for nearly a year that Apple take this virtualization stance, but now, in this post-Steve Jobs world, it may just happen. If Apple software does make it to mainstream virtualization, the channel could be booming with a swath of new solutions and specialization, which naturally, is a good thing.