Parallels for Mac cozies up to Vista
Parallels for Desktop 3.0 improves on a good thing with 3D graphics acceleration, snapshots, and usability tweaksFollow @pvenezia
On the heels of Apple's launch of the Intel Mac, a company called Parallels captured the spotlight with an eponymous product that does for Mac OS X what VMware Workstation did for the Windows and Linux world -- full-blown hardware virtualization in a workstation package running natively on the Mac OS. Parallels allowed less-than-satisfied Windows users to jump to the Mac and to take their Windows applications with them. Windows-only applications and games were no longer a sticking point.
[ Video: Windows on Mac with Parallels 3.0 ]
Click for larger view.
Snapshot support is almost a given in any virtualization platform now because the ability to freeze a virtual system at any given point in time and reset to that known-good point has become one of the major drivers of virtualization adoption. For instance, taking a snapshot right before installing a service pack or significant update permits nearly instant recovery when things go south. As a time-saving mechanism, this is nearly second to none.
The new Parallels Explorer in Parallels Desktop 3.0 is also handy. Rather than booting a guest OS to retrieve a few files stored on the virtual disk, this utility opens the virtual disk's file system and allows drag and drop copying from OS X to the guest file system and vice versa. The security manager is also a nice new feature, permitting more granular control over which devices are visible to the guest OS and what level of file sharing is permitted.
For many users, the best new feature in Parallels Desktop 3.0 will be the hardware-accelerated 3D graphics support. This is the Holy Grail for Mac-longing gaming users held hostage by Windows boxes because the focus of their gaming addiction runs only on Windows. Dual-booting with Boot Camp is an option, but it's far more convenient to run a virtual system. Prior to this release, direct access to the graphics card within the host Mac wasn't possible, so frame rates on games and other graphics-intensive applications suffered greatly. Parallels Desktop 3.0 provides direct access to the GPU, meaning that OpenGL and DirectX software not only runs in a Windows VM, they run fast.
VMs of no return