Parallels virtualization app upgrade sparks Mac user outcry

The CEO of Parallels Tuesday defended the recent upgrade of his company's Mac virtualization software

The CEO of Parallels on Tuesday defended the recent upgrade of his company's Mac virtualization software as a "quality product" and said that negative comments from users had been overblown because the firm doesn't edit its support forums.

"We do not moderate our support forums," Serguei Beloussov, Parallels' chief executive, said on Tuesday, referring to the practice of monitoring, and sometimes purging, user comments. "We became a victim of our own open policy."

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Beloussov maintained that it was a very small group -- "a couple of dozen," he said during the interview -- who are posting negative comments about the upgrade on the company's support forums. "It's actually quite a small number who are getting upset," he argued. "I have engineers coming to me who are asking 'Why do we get this reaction? There are only a few people making noise, and there are no real problems, only problems of perception.'

"Happy customers don't go to forums," Beloussov maintained. "And lots of [problems reported in the forum] have been resolved in Desktop 4."

Parallels Desktop for Mac 4.0, which the company released Nov. 11, has been blasted by some users on the company's forums for troubles ranging from locked-up virtual machine migrations and jumpy cursors to flaky Internet connections and slow performance once the upgrade's completed. Messages began to accumulate on the support forums soon after the upgrade hit the street.

"Currently, PD4 is absolutely useless," said a user labeled "solus" on Nov. 14, just a few days after the upgrade was released. "PD3 was lightning fast compared to this new version, and it's very disappointing."

Another user timed the boot process of his new Parallels Desktop for Mac 4.0 and compared to it to times for the upgrade's predecessor, then claimed that in his case, the newer version was nearly three times slower. "What happened to make Parallels so slow?" asked "phesopeon" in a message on Tuesday.

"I have an XP Professional disk image which PD4 cannot seem to convert from PD3 format," said a user identified as "nickhillard" on Nov. 21. "This is causing me serious problems. PD4 does not work for me. At all."

Parallels issued a hotfix update to Desktop for Mac 4.0 on Nov. 20 that fixed 20 bugs, nearly half of them addressing upgrade issues. That, however, didn't stop the complaints.

After applying the hotfix, some users ran into the dreaded Windows "Blue Screen of Death"; if those users had not created a backup of the virtual machine, they discovered that they couldn't roll back to an earlier edition of Parallels. "This update has now broken the new VM I had to create after the last version 4 release broke my VMs," reported a user named "ichi" on the same thread that announced the availability of the hotfix. "Thanks for getting us paying customers to test your software for you Parallels. If I had wanted to be a beta tester I would have asked you."

On Tuesday, Parallels issued a utility designed to recover blue-screened virtual machines, and posted a link to the download on its Web site.

Some users were so frustrated with the upgrade that they demanded their money back. "I have repeatedly requested a refund from Parallels as a result of this DEFECTIVE upgrade experience that has cost me more money than I'd like to reveal due to time loss, productivity loss," ranted "ScottMA" in a message last Sunday.

Beloussov stood behind Desktop for Mac 4.0, and dismissed the comments as indicative of a very small minority of dissatisfied customers. "The quality of the product is quite good," he said, noting that by its nature, virtualization software is complex.

Desktop for Mac 4.0 introduced thousands of changes from the previous version, he noted. "We try to fix issues as soon as they come along."

While Beloussov acknowledged the problems reported on the company's support forums and via both e-mail and telephone to the company's support desk, he rejected the idea that any issues with Desktop for Mac 4.0 are widespread.

"We have a million happy customers," said Beloussov. "Tens of thousands have updated to 4.0 and 99% of them have been happy with the new release's performance and speed." Twice, Beloussov said that the complaints came from only "a couple of dozen" people, although a look Tuesday at the company's support forum threads revealed many more than that.

He also downplayed the idea that large numbers of customers had sought refunds. "We don't have a lot of people asking for refunds," he said.

Parallels' policy is to accept refund requests within 30 days of downloading a digital copy of the virtualization software. A Computerworld editor who purchased Desktop for Mac 4.0, then asked for a refund, was promptly issued a credit to his credit card.

A message on Parallels' support site told users to expect "extended delays" in getting help due to the launch of Desktop for Mac 4.0. The company will also provide free-of-charge phone support to users having trouble upgrading, Beloussov said, although there was no mention of the free support offer on Parallels' site, where phone support remained priced at $29.99 per incident.

Parallels Desktop for Mac 4.0, which includes nearly 60 new features by the company's count and boasts significant performance improvements, competes with VMware Inc.'s $79.99 Fusion 2.0 and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s open source VirtualBox 2.0.4 in the Mac virtualization market.

Parallels' product is also priced at $79.99; an upgrade for current users costs $39.99.

Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.

This story, "Parallels virtualization app upgrade sparks Mac user outcry" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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