VMWare Fusion 4.1 Allows Virtualization of OS X Clients

VMware’s Fusion 4.1 allows virtualization of client versions of OS X itself for the first time. The newest version of Fusion, which was released earlier on Friday, now allows users to install client versions of Leopard, Snow Leopard, or Lion, a feature that has heretofore been limited to server editions of the operating system.

The new feature was first uncovered by Macworld, which also noted that VMware 4.1 simply reminds user to respect Apple’s licensing terms.

VMWare Fusion Running Leopard

Image courtesy of Macworld. VMware Fusion 4.1 installing Leopard Client.

As the VMware tech note for the software explains:

VMware Fusion 4.1 changes the behavior of the new virtual machine assistant when creating a Mac OS X virtual machine. Starting with Fusion 4.1, you are presented with an additional prompt to confirm that the operating system is licensed to run in a virtual machine. This additional prompt reminds you that installing Mac OS X in a virtual machine is subject to the license agreement that accompanies the Mac OS X software.

VMware recommends consulting the license agreement accompanying your Mac OS X software for the terms and conditions that apply. Apple license agreements can be found at http://www.apple.com/legal/sla.

If you confirm compliance with the applicable licenses, the assistant proceeds to the next step. This behavior is identical for the Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion releases of Mac OS X and their variants.

Both VMware Fusion and competing product Parallels Desktop currently allow OS X Lion client to run virtualized, in accordance with new Apple terms and conditions explicitly allowing it on Mac hardware. But this marks the first time that users will be able to install client versions of OS X prior to Lion in a virtual environment without performing hacks and modifications to the virtualization software.

It remains to be seen how Apple will respond to this development but, for users at least, the result is purely positive. Fusion’s new feature allows users who have migrated to Lion to continue using PowerPC-based applications under the Rosetta emulation layer, which was not included in Lion. This left users of specialized software, and even large consumer-based software such as Quicken, in a tough position with no way to access their applications or data once their machine had been upgraded to Lion. Those users will now find relief with this update.

The feature will also be beneficial to developers who can now test their software on multiple operating systems virtually without having to purchase the much more expensive server licenses. 

For now, all eyes are on Apple’s response and any potential action on the Cupertino company’s part. Until then, VMware’s 4.1 update will cure a lot of headaches for users looking to run PowerPC applications on their Lion-based Macs.