Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac update boosts support for Windows 8

Latest version provides improved support for Windows 8 live tiles, tablet gestures, and USB 3.0

Apple has offered the Boot Camp feature for many years to let Mac users work with either the Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows operating system on the same computer. For some users who want to experience Microsoft Windows applications on their Mac hardware, this option has been enough. Then there are those who want more, such as the capability of working seamlessly with either environment free of the need to reboot. For the latter group, Parallels, VMware, and Oracle all offer virtualization software that does the trick.

If you're the owner of a Mac sporting at least an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and haven't tried Parallels or other virtualization packages, you might want to expand your world to include the ability to use OS X Mountain Lion features in Windows applications and run Windows and Mac applications side by side.

[ Mac virtualization faces off: VMware Fusion 5 vs. Parallels Desktop 8. | Track the latest trends in virtualization in InfoWorld's Virtualization Report newsletter. ]

In August, Parallels launched a major release of its Parallels Desktop for Mac product, version 8, which added formal support for Windows 8 (Version 7 allowed use of Windows 8 with a simple workaround). Now, a few weeks after Microsoft Windows 8's formal release, it has a free update that supports Windows 8 touchscreen tablet gestures and adds a live tile to the Windows 8 interface for easy access to shared Mac applications.

The update also allows users to enjoy the stunning Retina display resolution, available in some 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, in Windows and Windows applications, such as to see crisper fonts and more vivid photos and images. The update adds full USB 3.0 support for faster connections to peripheral devices, enhances the user experience by creating smoother transitions when entering and exiting Coherence mode, and increases virtual machine limits so that users could run larger applications.

For new customers, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac costs $80; current Parallels Desktop for Mac owners running version 6 or higher can upgrade to the latest version for $50. Parallels' greatest challenge will likely be its price tag. The upgrade fee has been a bone of contention for some current Parallels owners.

Some users already running version 7 believe they don't really need any of these new features being offered with version 8; thus, an upgrade isn't warranted. If that's the case, there isn't much to be gained from the $50 upgrade. On the other hand, if you are a Parallels Desktop 6 holdout and have been waiting for an upgrade, this latest release should prove worthwhile if for no other reason than the speed improvements.

Are you an existing Parallels user? Will you stay with version 7 a while longer? Or would you be willing to shell out the extra bucks for version 8?

This article, "Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac update boosts support for Windows 8," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com.

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