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Virtualization software has come a long way since the days of Virtual PC on PPC Macs. Microsoft’s Windows-enabling program was more of a parlor trick than fully functional software. These days, Parallels Desktop, version 4.0 of which is available today for purchase, makes running a virtual machine more of a pleasure and less of a chore.
Earlier this fall, VMWare Fusion, the primary competitor of Parallels, released version 2.0 of their software. VMWare’s updated product added DirectX 9.0c and Mac OS X Leopard Server support, features which gave it a significant edge over the 3.0 release of Parallels.
Parallels Desktop 4.0 evens the field, introducing both DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.1 support, and the ability to run OS X Leopard Server. Other new features include:
- Built-in iPhone access for starting, stopping and managing your virtual machine from your handheld
- Clips, a new proprietary screenshot sharing tool that lets you share captures between operating systems with a single click
- Simultaneous device mounting in both Windows and OS X, so that manual switching of things like USB sticks and other removable storage devices
- Multi-core processors and up to 8GB of RAM are now supported, with up to 256MB of video RAM possible
- 64-bit computing support
- Hypervisor adaptive resource management optimizes performance automatically based on your usage
- PowerSaver improved battery management with battery status monitor in Windows VM
- An SDK for developing third-party software compatible with Parallels, which could result in some interesting cross-platform applications
The above list makes the 4.0 release of Parallels a very wise purchase for those who need Windows functionality in a virtualized environment. Overall performance is reported to be 50% better than in the last version 3 build, narrowing the gap between virtualized and partitioned Boot Camp Windows installations.
Parallels Desktop 4.0 is available now for $79.99. A Premium version adds a software bundle valued at $160 for $99.99, and owners of Parallels 3 can upgrade for $39.99.