Tech Industry

Parallels 8 retuned for Mountain Lion, Windows 8

The virtualization software for Macs now can marry OS X's dictation to Windows apps or Windows notifications to OS X. Also: Better Windows 8 screen-edge controls.

Parallels lets OS X users run multiple operating systems on a Mac.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

BERLIN -- Parallels released version 8 of its virtualization product today, updating the Windows-on-Mac software to stay up to date with both Microsoft's and Apple's latest operating systems.

The software uses a technology called virtualization that lets a guest operating system, including Windows, Android, or other instances of OS X, run atop an OS X host. That's handy for transitions -- there are lots of new Mac users these days switching from Windows even if Windows still dominates.

There are two big reasons customers pay $80 for the software to do that, said Parallels Product Manager Kurt Schmucker, speaking here at the IFA consumer-electronics show today: Web pages that require Internet Explorer and the Windows version of Microsoft Office.

After that, there are no more big, obvious Windows programs, but instead a collection of more than 10,000 Windows apps. "A lot of them are internal to a company," Schmucker said, legacy software that's not being updated.

Parallels Product Manager Kurt Schmucker
Parallels Product Manager Kurt Schmucker describes Parallels 8 at the IFA consumer-electronics show. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Parallels isn't the only product in the market. The biggest competition is from virtualization pioneer VMware, whose Fusion product for Mac also just was updated.

To make the combination easier to use, though, Parallels introduced a number of features with version 8, which is available today for existing customers and on Sept. 4 for new ones. Among them:

• Mountain Lion support so that Windows apps such as Microsoft Word can draw on Mac OS X features such as voice dictation and notifications. That means that when Windows receives an instant message or software update, a pop-up will appear in the Mac OS 10 notification area.

• Safari on OS X now gets an IE button to immediately open Internet Explorer when a Web page is broken in Safari.

• To use Windows 8 on Parallels, the software now adds something like a little speed bump that slows the mouse cursor as it reaches the edge of the Windows 8 screen. That lets people take advantage of the active areas at the top bottom left and right of the screen that controls Windows 8 and its full-screen apps -- without having to worry about when the mouse pointer slides off the edge of the Windows 8 screen.

• Full Retina display support on Macs. Partial support was in a Parallels 7 update, but it's now complete. "The screen looks great," Schmucker said -- much better than with Apple's own solution for getting Windows onto a Mac. "In Boot Camp, everything is unusable because everything is so tiny."

• Metro apps are now fully integrated with the OS X Launchpad.

• Parallels already had a feature called coherence that let people run Windows apps in standalone windows so the screen isn't cluttered with the rest of Windows. On Parallels 8, this coherence feature now is available by clicking a single button rather than selecting it from the menu.

• Parallels 8 synchronizes languages, so that if you change your computer to Russian in one operating system, it will change it in the other operating system, too.

• Parallels comes with an installation screen that lets people easily download a variety of operating systems, some of them free such as an open-source version of Google's Android or the Ubuntu Linux distribution. Arriving later in Parallels 8 will be a new purchasing button to automatically buy, download, and install Windows 8.

Parallels 8 comes with an ability to find, download, and purchase new operating systems. The current option for the free Windows 8 Preview Release will be replaced by a mechanism to buy the final version.
Parallels 8 comes with an ability to find, download, and purchase new operating systems. The current option for the free Windows 8 Preview Release will be replaced by a mechanism to buy the final version. Stephen Shankland/CNET