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  • Parallels Desktop Reaches Another Milestone

    February 27th, 2007

    Beginning Tuesday morning, Parallels Inc.'s site was slammed as perhaps tens of thousands of people tried to download the latest version of Parallels Desktop. It's amazing how this application has taken the Mac universe by storm. One estimate I heard (but never confirmed) claimed that this program, which lets you run Windows, Linux and lots of other operating systems on your Intel-based Mac as virtual machines, was second only to Microsoft Office for the Mac in sales.

    That makes perfect sense to me. You see, being able to run Windows on a Mac with near-native speeds has been the holy grail for years. It gives you the best of both worlds, and you know that Apple's Boot Camp was really a watershed. Since then, things have moved along at a fever pitch. First, Parallels Desktop joined the fray, then CrossOver Mac, a solution that uses an open source set of APIs to allow you to run some Windows applications without Windows. VMWare, the biggest player in the virtualization industry, has put up a public beta of their pretender to the throne, VM Fusion.

    Parallels hasn't been standing still, and it almost seems that, whenever one version is released, another is waiting in the wings to enter the public beta arena.

    Version 2.5, which is a free update to existing users, attempts to traverse several frontiers of running a virtual machine on your Mac. At its core, the interface is smoothed. Installing Windows XP or Windows Vista, for example, simply requires a few steps in a setup assistant, including entering your Microsoft serial number. Parallels Desktop takes over and does all the rest for you, and you don't have to return to your Mac until the final steps of the process. This is an area where Microsoft is trumped big time, because it has never figured out how to make operating system installations easy.

    If you're presently using Apple's Boot Camp, you won't have to reinstall Windows, and battle with Microsoft over using the same user license on the same computer. Parallels will be able to use that environment for its virtualization, so you don't have to reboot to switch operating systems unless you're playing a 3D game or require some powerful rendering software that would bring Parallels Desktop to its knees.

    Even better is Coherence, which is basically a feature that opens any Windows application in its own window that displays against the Mac OS X desktop. This is as close as you can get to mimicking the Mac OS 9 Classic environment. In addition, Windows application icon appear in the Dock, and you can even launch that application (and the Parallels Desktop if need be) by clicking on that icon. This clever bit of legerdemain is similar to what you could do with Microsoft's now-departed Virtual PC for the Mac, except that the icons are lots prettier.

    Another feature, which I've yet to try, is Transporter, which is designed to import your VMWare and Virtual PC environments. Readers, feel free to give it a try and let me know how it works.

    There are lots and lots of clever touches, such as mapping Mac keystrokes to a virtual machine, so you don't have to remember to switch between Command-S and Control-S in order to save a document. It's all done the Mac way, but you can switch that off should you prefer to go back and forth when moving to that other operating system. But I think you'll leave it be.

    Upgrading is pretty simple. After installing the new version, when you launch your Windows virtual machine, you'll be prompted to reinstall Parallels Tools, which provides the seamless integration with the Mac environment. That process requires a restart of Windows, after which things should be working at full tilt.

    Indeed, performance is sped up somewhat, and Parallels boasts an up to 50% improvement in graphics power, which means more fluid and snappier display of menus and screen resizing. This, however, is not true 3D support, which Parallels is promising in a future update, one that's still a few months away.

    In saying all that, nothing that Parallels Desktop does with its virtualization magic can really make Windows Vista run faster and in a more seamless fashion. Vista is one huge lumbering beast, and the features that are supposed to make it better, such as the plethora of security warnings, and the 3D eye-candy (on PCs that support the Aero interface) actually work against you most of the time. And early sales are apparently nothing to write home about.

    As for Parallels, well, for a free upgrade, version 2.5 is magnificent. In its rear view mirror, however, is VMWare's Fusion for the Mac, with a release date that's still uncertain. For now, however, Parallels remains the best way -- with a bullet -- for running Windows and Linux on your Mac.



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    7 Responses to “Parallels Desktop Reaches Another Milestone”

    1. shane blyth says:

      Its awesome software. I havnt used transporter but I have read how easy it is to use.. a fw mouse clicks and your existing windows pc is faihfully reproduced in a VM, complete in everyway. It would be worth doing just to backup windows! I like the act that if Windows craps out while running under PArallels on the Mac I can simply copy a single file back over the corrupt or virus ridden Windows and bang it is back as i was..
      Very nice and it has saved my bacon a time or two.

    2. Kevin P says:

      Parallels has really saved our arse at my company... we use Ashlar Vellum's Xenon modeling program, and the current Mac version runs horribly in Rosetta. Fortunately, we've been able to install the Windows version of Xenon on our Intel Macs using Parallels, and it's a perfect interim solution. Plus, now people can run AutoCAD if they really need to. I'm incredibly impressed by how Parallels continues to update and improve its product, and I'm especially excited they the company is located in my hometown of Renton, WA!

    3. Martin Hill says:

      We've used Parallels Transporter a number of times now and it works beautifully. I transported my work Dell PC onto my work 15" MacBook Pro and pretty much everything works (as well as Windows XP programs can that is!). My Dell has our university's Standard Operating Environment (SOE) which includes lots of scripts running in the background, Novell logins and Zenworks delivered apps and thy all just work. HP Openview runs very nicely - my wife tells me OpenView runs faster on her 20" Core 2 Duo iMac under Parallels than on her Core 2 Duo Dell laptop. The windows just snap open.

      My O2 XDA II Windows mobile PDA now plugs into my Mac over USB 2 and syncs using Windows ActiveSync. I have had a few issues getting the Windows Cisco VPN software working from home (I did get it running once), but I think that is actually just typical Windows problems coming to the fore. I have also had problems with a dreadful program called Syllabus Plus which our campus uses for booking venues, but at the moment we can’t get it working on 2 of the PCs in our office either!

      To use Transporter, just install the free Transporter software on your PC, and then run the Transporter agent on the PC. Then go to the Mac, launch Transporter and type in your PC’s IP address, hit go and then come back in half an hour to find your PC magically duplicated and running on your Mac. It’s too easy.

      Coherence is fantastic and allows me to have icons for Internet Explorer 7, Outlook 2003 and OpenView sitting in my dock alongside all my OS X apps which with a single click, open up (launching Parallels if need be which only takes a few seconds) and run as if they were Mac apps themselves. It’s not surprising Parallels has been such a huge hit in the Mac world – they have done a great job.

      -Mart

    4. David K says:

      Parallels works great. I've never been a fan of Intuit Quickbooks on a Mac, but I am scared to death of running a full blown PC in my office. We now use the Quickbooks/XP/Parallels Combo with McAfee Security, and it works like a dream! Virtual PC was never a solution. Thanks guys and keep up the good work!

    5. Greg S says:

      I used to transporter to move my company ThinkPad image into Parallels on my 17 inch MBP. About 14 gigabytes - did it with a gigabit PC Card adapter in the ThinkPad and a little gigabit ethernet hub to my MBP. I was amazed - set it off, came back the next morning, and there was my company's login prompt waiting for me in a window on my MBP! Everything that was moved from the ThinkPad has worked! Office, some XML utilities, you name it.

      Very impressive!

    6. Greg S says:

      In my above post - I meant "I used transporter" not "I used to transporter" Sorry.

    7. In my above post - I meant “I used transporter” not “I used to transporter” Sorry.

      A belated announcement about mistakes.

      We've added a Preview Comment feature that'll give you a chance to see how your message looks before it's posted. It won't prevent all mistakes, but it'll help.

      I think.

      Peace,
      Gene

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