VMware has announced that VMware Fusion 3, the next major release of its virtualization solution for running Windows, Linux, and other operating systems on Intel-powered Macs, will ship on October 27. The new version costs $80 (£50), with an upgrade available for $40(£25) . It promises more than 50 new features, including changes designed to make it run well in Snow Leopard. The virtualization engine in Fusion 3 is completely 64-bit native, and will run in 64-bit mode under both Leopard and Snow Leopard for users of 64-bit-CPU-equipped Macs.

Fusion 3 also offers greatly improved graphics support, including support for OpenGL 2.1 and DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 3. For the first time in Fusion, users will be able to use the 'Aero' visual effects in both Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

Users of physical Windows machines looking to move to Fusion 3 on the Mac will find the task has been greatly simplified. A small program on the physical PC is first run, which generates a four-digit code. Users then move to the Mac and run the migration assistant, which will ask for the four-digit code. After providing the code, the Mac will find the physical Windows PC, and set up an identical virtual machine -- all without any user intervention.

Fusion Unity mode -- whereby the Windows desktop is hidden and Windows applications and windows appear alongside those of OS X -- has also been improved over its predecessor. Users will be able to switch between windows of a Windows application using Command-`, as they can in OS X. Windows application icons in the Dock will show a list of open windows when clicked, just like OS X applications in the Dock. You can even use Dock Exposé in Snow Leopard to show just the windows associated with a particular Windows application. Finally, a new Fusion menu bar icon provides access to the items in the Start Menu and on the Task Bar, along with some other often-used tasks.

VMware has worked toward improved performance throughout the application, reducing memory usage where possible and adding small refinements. Dragging windows in Unity mode will be notably faster than before, and CPU usage is lower than it was previously. Users will be able to copy and paste not just text but graphics as well between Windows and OS X. Fusion 3 will support multiple cores in virtual machines, as opposed to the multiple CPUs supported in Fusion 2. Virtual machines will also launch more quickly than they did in Fusion 2.

On the front end, the new virtual machine library overview window loads faster, and shows real time views of your virtual machines--even if its windows are hidden or it's running in Unity mode. A new simplified interface makes it easier for users to create new virtual machines and handle other routine tasks. Finally, application updates are built right into the program, so users won't need to visit the web site to download updates.