Parallels, VMware square off in Mac virtualization

Retail sees most of the Mac virtualization action, but enterprise market shows signs of life.

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Parallels and VMware are both looking for channel partners to bolster their respective pushes into Macintosh virtualization.

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Both companies promote their virtualization products as tools for running Windows on a Mac without rebooting. Parallels got the jump on this market in 2006. Today, the company reports more than 1.5 million users worldwide for its Parallels Desktop for Mac. VMware Inc. entered the market in 2007 with its Fusion software.

The products, which let Windows and Mac applications run side by side, are tight in market leadership. VMware's Fusion caught up with Parallels in North American retail sales in mid-2008 and continues to lead in market share, according to Pat Lee, director of personal desktop products at VMware. Late last year, Fusion commanded a 53% slice of units moved, according to NPD Group data cited by VMware. Fusion's share remains in the low 50s this year, Lee noted.

Bill Portin, vice president of sales and operations for Parallels, said the retail market stands very close to a 50-50 split. He noted, however, that the NPD numbers don't take into account institutional business, citing education as a large market for Parallels.

Resellers play a role in both retail and the emerging enterprise sector.

VARs see SMB interest in Mac virtualization

Jason Wu, co-owner of Tekserve Corp., an Apple specialist and reseller in New York, said most of the demand for Mac virtualization stems from individual consumers and businesses with fewer than five employees. Tekserve, which resells Parallels software, operates a retail store in Manhattan and offers small and medium-sized business (SMB) solutions.

However, Nathan Coutinho, national solutions manager for virtualization at direct marketing giant CDW Corp., said he sees interest in Mac virtualization among larger organizations as well.

"Virtualization is starting [to] creep up in the enterprise," Coutinho said. "A recent article in Fortune noted that Cisco has about 14% of their employees using MacBook Pros, and we know they are using Fusion."

CDW carries both Fusion and Parallels.

VMware's Lee said he's seen interest in larger Fusion deployments, citing traction among larger companies already familiar with the company's technology.

Parallels, meanwhile, is positioning its Parallels Server for Mac for the enterprise. The product, introduced last June, lets organizations run applications such as Exchange Server email clients on Apple Xserve machines.

Maria Carl, director of channel sales for Parallels, has been talking to Apple specialists about Parallels Server for Mac as a services opportunity. She said the product can spark discussions regarding server consolidation and running Windows or Linux on an Xserve. Carl said partners could potentially build a professional services practice around a desktop-to-data-center Mac environment.

Tekserve has been focusing on Parallels Server for Mac at the enterprise level, making joint account calls with Parallels senior technicians. Wu said the server product has yet to produce a major sale but has generated interest.

"There are a lot of conversations going on," he said.

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