Mac virtualization face-off: VMware Fusion 5 vs. Parallels Desktop 8
Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion support are promoted but existed in previous versions. So what else is new?Follow @MobileGalen
Like VMware Fusion 5, the enhancements in Parallels Desktop 8 are minor, such as supporting notifications, but at least there are more useful additions in Parallels Desktop 8. For example, you can use OS X Mountain Lion's dictation feature to enter text into a Windows app. This is a Mountain Lion feature most OS X apps can support, even older ones like Word 2007, if they use the standard OS X text services. By contrast, for some strange reason, VMware Fusion does not support dictation, and this Mountain Lion-standard option is grayed out in its Edit menu.
Parallels Desktop 8 also offers the "open in Internet Explorer" option in Safari. If you come across one of the dwindling number of websites that use ActiveX or other Windows-only features, you can easily open it in IE via Windows.
Perhaps the most useful new capability in Parallels Desktop 8 is support for Windows 8's gestures via MacBooks' built-in trackpads and Apple's optional Magic Trackpad (but not the Magic Mouse, given limitations in the Apple hardware). Gestures such as pinch and expand are especially convenient in the Metro environment, and the forthcoming Office 2013 works with gestures beyond what Metro uses, such as rotation. As OS X gets savvier about touch support, more Mac users will use touch gestures on their Macs, so it's natural to expect them to also work in a Windows 8 VM.
Parallels Desktop also offers a consistent way to access Windows 8's new shortcuts that require the Windows key. For most such shortcuts, press Command-Option on the Mac where Windows expects the Windows key. It's a nice, consistent approach, unlike as is the case in VMware Fusion. For the Windows key alone (which lets you switch between the most recently opened apps and the Start screen in Windows 8), just press the Mac's Command key; VMware Fusion uses the same gesture.
Parallels Desktop 8 does have an interesting ability to download and install a developer's desktop version of Google's Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" mobile operating system. It's basically the same as running Google's Android emulator on your Mac via Terminal, so I'm not sure why you'd run it in a VM instead.
All in all, why Parallels charges $50 is beyond me -- as in the case of VMware Fusion 5, it's an unconscionable price. Parallels Desktop 8's update price should be no more than $15.
Another reason I hesitate to recommend Parallels is that the company mercilessly spams customers (through its partner Avanquest) with emails selling upgrades and other products. I've tried for years to opt out and finally had to block them at the ISP level. If you buy Parallels Desktop, I suggest you flag avanquest.com as a spam domain in your email server or client.
Fusion 5 versus Parallels Desktop 8: Making the choice
At the end of the day, there's slightly more to justify upgrading to Parallels Desktop 8 than there is to Fusion 5. But if you have the previous versions, you likely won't need to upgrade to either.
If you plan to run Windows 8 extensively, my choice is Parallels Desktop 8 because it supports Windows 8 a tad better. If Windows 8 is not in your Mac's future, keep what you have. If you own neither and need Windows virtualization, flip a coin: Either of the two will suffice.
This story, "Mac virtualization face-off: VMware Fusion 5 vs. Parallels Desktop 8," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Keep up on the latest developments in mobile technology and security at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
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InfoWorld executive editor Galen Gruman analyzes the latest issues in mobile technology.
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Galen is author of iOS 7: The "Just What You Need" Book, OS X Mavericks: The "Just What You Need" Book, MacBook Pro Portable Genius, and iBooks Author For Dummies, as well as lead author of Exploring Windows 8 For Dummies. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen and at Google+.