Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mac Apps: New Parallels Aligns With Mountain Lion, Windows 8

Parallels' latest version of its virtualization software for Mac has been updated to support Apple's new OS X Mountain Lion OS. It's also ready for Windows 8. Parallels Desktop for Mac 8 includes the ability to start Windows apps directly from OS X, new integration features with Outlook, and more.

Following the lead of competitor VMware last week, Parallels raised the curtain Thursday on a new release of its software for running Windows software on a Mac computer.

Parallels Desktop for Mac 8 (US$79.99, or $49.99 for existing users who want to upgrade) will run on the latest version of Apple's OS X operating system, 10.8 Mountain Lion, and supports the upcoming release of Microsoft's operating system, Windows 8.

Parallels Desktop 8
Parallel's software runs OS X and Windows in separate virtual environments, but it presents the user with a seamless interface. The line between the operating systems is blurred so all applications appear to be running under a single operating system: OS X.

"It's one of the best solutions out there," ITIC principal analyst Laura DiDio told MacNewsWorld.

Better Integration
This latest version of Parallels Desktop contains a number new features that further integrate the two operating systems running on a Mac.

For example, Windows applications can be started directly from the OS X launchpad. "It really lets you load applications quickly," Didio observed.

Documents can be dragged to an Outlook icon in OS X, and they'll be placed in email messages in Outlook running in Windows.

Notifications in Windows are smoothly displayed in OS X, and if a Web page won't display properly in Apple's Safari browser, it can be redisplayed in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser running in Windows with a click of a virtual button.

What's more, touch features supported by Windows 8 -- features like zoom, pinch and rotate -- can be used through Parallels Desktop.

Candy for Eyes and Fingers
Mac features can also be shared with Windows. For instance, Windows Bluetooth devices can hook up to Microsoft's OS through a Mac's Bluetooth hardware -- no separate dongle required.

Parallells' software also allows Windows apps to take full advantage of Macs with Retina displays. "I'm not a gamer but even I can see the difference the Retina display makes to the human eye," Didio noted.

Another Mac feature shared with Windows is Mountain Lion Dictation, which will turn speech into text and insert it into Windows apps.

In addition, Windows can use a Mac's USB 3.0 ports for connection to peripherals designed for the Microsoft OS.

Desktop 8 also supports full-screen display of Windows on a Mac. That's useful when trying to use the new Windows 8 Metro interface. "Parallels knows to go to full-screen when Windows enters that mode," Ivan Drucker, co-owner and founder of IvanExpert, told MacNewsWorld.

"That has implications for those running Parallels with new Windows 8 applications," he added. "It's less significant if you're going to be running Windows 8 with traditional applications or any other version of Windows."

Fusion 5
A major competitor to Parallels, VMware released a new version of its virtualization software, Fusion 5 ($49.99), last week. It contains many of the features found in Parallels, as well as support for Apple Airplay.

"It lets you see Windows on your HDTV," Nicolas Rochard, VMWare's group product marketing manager for Fusion, told TechNewsWorld.

He explained that VMWare focused on real-world performance in Fusion 5. "If you run synthetic benchmarks, you're not going to see a lot of improvements," he said.

Where you will see improvements, he continued, is in things like rebooting your Windows 7 virtual machine (40 percent faster) and battery life (45 percent longer).

He noted comparison tests performed by VMware using two-year-old MacBook Pros showed a machine running Fusion 5 ran an hour longer than the same machine running Fusion 4.

Two Peas in a Virtual Pod
Both Parallels Desktop 8 and Fusion 5 stack up to each other very favorably, fixit maven Drucker noted.

"These are evolved products that have reached a certain level of robustness, and there's a lot of feature parity between them," he said.

Traditionally, Parallels received kudos for its integration with OS X, he explained. Fusion's edge was in raw performance.

"I think those distinctions at this point have become blurred, especially in the new products," he opined.