VMware Fusion 2.0 Beta Supports DX9 Shader 2

Mac users represent a small percentage of computer users--about three percent worldwide. But if Mac sales are any indication--up 51 percent in the last year--the number of Mac users are growing rapidly. One of the reasons for this is that all new Macs can also run Windows, allowing users to have access to both operating systems simultaneously via virtualization software.

There are several options available for those who want to run Windows on their Macs. Apple's Boot Camp software, which comes with OS X 10.5 (Leopard), sets up a Windows partition so the system can boot directly into the native Windows OS. This way offers the highest level of Windows compatibility and performance, but precludes you from using the Mac OS as long as you are booted into Windows.

Quickly gaining in popularity in the Mac community is the use of virtualization applications, which allow users to run Windows in a "virtual" session within the Mac OS. This gives the user access to both operating systems at the same time. While not quite as stable as Boot Camp or as fast, the convenience of simultaneous OS access is quite a boon. The two main players in this field are Parallels Desktop 3.0 for Mac and VMware Fusion.

One of the primary reasons why someone would want Windows on their Mac is to have access to Windows games. The Mac is not known as a strong gaming platform and there are many more titles available for Windows than Mac. Unfortunately, virtualization's Achilles Heel has been the lack of strong DirectX support, forcing mot serious gamers on the Mac platform to do their gaming in a native Windows session via Boot Camp.

The tide might finally be starting to turn, however. VMware has just released the VMware Fusion 2.0 Beta 1, which includes "experimental" DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2 support. This is still a far cry from full DX10 support for newer titles, such as Crysis, but it is a big step forward for gamers. Both VMware and Parallels have made 3D gaming support one of their top priorities. VMware has posted a video on YouTube demonstrating the new beta playing Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Soulstorm and Civilization IV.

In addition to DX9 Shader Model 2, the new beta also includes a number of enhancements such as true multi-display support. New additions also include improved support for printing, shared folders, USB, and networking. The VMware Fusion 2.0 beta can be downloaded here. Note that Fusion only works on Intel-based Macs.