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Parallels 7 Swings In

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 9, 2011 5:00 AM PT

A new version of Parallels Desktop, the software that allows you to run multiple operating systems on your Mac simultaneously, was released this week. This latest edition of the popular virtualization software, which is on more than 3 million desktops worldwide, has more than 90 new and enhanced features, as well as a new mobile app that runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Parallels 7 Swings In

This release of Parallels, version 7, also supports the latest edition of Apple's OS X operating system, Lion.

Version 7 of the software is 120 percent faster than its leading competitor when copying files in Windows, according to Parallels, and 40 percent faster when starting and resuming Windows. It's faster than release 6 of the program, too -- 60 percent faster when resuming Windows and for some applications, 45 percent faster for 3D graphics.

Better Speed

This latest release is definitely an improvement over the previous version, according to Ivan Drucker, of IvanExpert, a company that provides support to users of Apple products. "I was pretty happy with version 6, but [version 7] does feel more responsive, and more speed is always better," he told MacNewsWorld.

Among Mac users, Parallels has a reputation for strong integration of the operating systems that it's running, while its chief commercial competitor, VMware Fusion, is known for its speed. That may not be the case anymore. "At this point, I feel that Parallels is ahead of VMware on both fronts," Drucker said.

In addition to support of Lion features -- such as Mission Control, Launch Pad and full-screen scroll gestures -- and speed improvements, the new Parallels allows multiple copies of Lion to be run simultaneously, as well as running operating systems other than Windows, such as Chrome and Ubuntu. If those operating systems are running in Parallels, though, they can't access Lion's features as Windows can.

It also has a Windows On Demand feature that allows that operating system to be purchased directly from inside Parallels. What's more, a Mac's iSight or FaceTime HD camera can be used by both Mac and Windows programs.

To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade?

Released along with Parallels is a a mobile app, available from the iTunes store, that allows a Mac running Parallels 7 to be remotely controlled by one of Apple's mobile devices. Through it, you can watch Flash videos running in Windows on a device like an iPad, which doesn't support that technology. In addition, text can be cut, copied and pasted between applications running in Parallels and the mobile device.

Of course, the question that arises whenever a new version of any software is released is, is it worth it? "Is it an essential upgrade? I don't know. Is it a worthwhile upgrade? Yes," Drucker said.

Much of the buzz of several years surrounding desktop virtual machine products like Parallels seems to have waned, but the demand for them hasn't. "The demand has been off the charts," claimed John Uppendahl, Parallels' senior director for global communications, told MacNewsWorld "It's increased significantly year over year."

While not a staple for most computer users, virtual machine software has gained a following among business users with specialized needs or need for a particular piece of software that isn't available for the Mac, as well as some gamers, explained Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group.

"In the case of games, though, the best performance is achieved using dual booting," he added. "When you use virtualizaton software like Parallels or VMware, you need a beefier machine configuration because you're running two operating systems at the same time."

The standard retail price for Parallels 7 for the Mac is US$79.99. There's also a student edition for $39.99 and a switch from VMWare Fusion edition for $49.99. Current users of Parallels can upgrade the version 7 for $49.99. In addition, there's a 14-day, fully functional trial version available as a free download from the company's website.

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