Windows-on-Mac software gets virtualization update

Parallels Desktop now comes with USB 2.0 support and the ability to run Windows applications natively on the Mac operating system.

Parallels, a software company that specializes in enabling Mac users to run other operating systems without rebooting, has released an update to its trademark Parallels Desktop software.

The biggest update to the new version is Coherence, a feature that enables Mac users running Parallels to run and access Windows applications from their Mac desktops via virtualization rather than switching between operating systems.

The feature is activated when a user turns on "Coherence mode," which hides the Windows desktop and integrates Windows applications into the Mac OS X desktop and application dock.

A statement from Parallels called the Coherence feature "completely customizable," stipulating that when Coherence is enabled, users will be able to choose how to load and run Windows applications, as well as select display options for Windows features like the task bar and Start menu.

In addition to the Coherence update, the new version of Parallels includes another new feature called Transporter, which is concerned with simplified virtualization. If a PC owner is switching to a Mac, for example, but wants to keep his or her Windows settings and files intact, Transporter allows the entire software contents and settings of the PC to be moved directly to one of Parallels' virtual machines without needing to reinstall Windows on the Mac.

Transporter's functionality additionally makes it easier for users running other Windows-on-Mac virtualization software--like VMWare Workstation or Microsoft Virtual PC, which is available for older PowerPC-based Macs--to convert those workstations to Parallels-ready virtual machines.

The new version of Parallels Desktop includes several additional updates: It now supports USB 2.0 functionality, Apple's built-in iSight cameras in virtual-Windows mode, drag-and-drop functionality from one operating system to another, and CD- and DVD-burning capabilities.

The software update also includes increased support for for running Windows on a Mac (though not simultaneously). Boot Camp users who also run Parallels Desktop will now be able to load the same copy of Windows in either program rather than requiring two copies of the operating system.

The new version of Parallels Desktop, like the previous version, sells for $79.99. Existing Parallels customers, however, will have access to a free upgrade.

Parallels spokesman Benjamin Rudolph confirmed that the new software is compatible with Windows' recently released Vista operating system, with one exception: The three-dimensional "Aero Glass" interface is not yet supported because Parallels has not yet built in that kind of graphics capability.

Rudolph added, however, that a future update of Parallels that will support Vista's "eye candy" is "just a few months away."

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