Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac Competes Against VMware Fusion 3

Parallels introduces Desktop 5 for Mac, a solution for running a virtual PC on a Mac that the company claims is 300 percent faster than the previous version. The latest version of Parallels' Mac virtualization software is competing against VMware's Fusion 3.

Parallels makes it easy for Macs and PCs to just get along, and on Nov. 4 it introduced Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac, offering an updated way for them to bond more quickly, more easily and with better integration.

Parallels 5, according to the virtualization company, is 300 percent faster than the previous version and offers more than 70 new features for consumers and enterprises wanting to run a virtual PC on a Mac.

"Parallels has a long history in the virtualization space, with hosting and cloud computing, and it moved into the consumer space about three years ago, bringing virtualization to the everyday person," Mary Starman, director of marketing at Parallels, told eWEEK. "With Parallels 5, the focus is on ways to let people work the way they want to work."

The latter includes several options for viewing Windows. A user can run Windows in a Full Screen mode, so it completely covers over the Mac user interface-with the option of Active Corners that can curl back to expose the Mac desktop beneath it-or a Crystal view mode, which treats Windows like just another Mac application that can be launched from the dock.

Trackpad gestures can be used across both platforms, and the keyboard shortcuts a user is accustomed to can be made to apply to both systems. "We've also done a lot of work to make sure copy and paste is seamless between Windows and Mac and that the full formatting of documents stays," even between Windows and Linux guest operating systems, said Starman.

Parallels 5 is optimized for Apple's Snow Leopard OS and offers full support for Aero in Windows 7 as well as Windows Vista. It's said to offer seven times better graphics performance for games and 3D applications than the previous version, with Direct X 9Ex with Shader Model 3 and OpenGL 2.1 support. Full hardware resources can be utilized with support for eight virtual CPUs, with 64-bit Windows and a Snow Leopard Server 64 bit.

"We're definitely seeing market data saying consumers are moving [to Macs]. We're seeing that with PC and Windows share in general, trending is down about 20 percent, while Apple is still growing," said Starman.

During Apple's fiscal fourth-quarter financial report, Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO, said that approximately half of Mac buyers in its stores were first-time Mac owners.

"There's definitely a move [toward Macs] in the consumer space, and consumer behavior really drives the enterprise," Starman continued, offering that she finds Macs are increasingly accepted in the enterprise.

"One contributor to this is the success of the iPod, which exposed a lot of users to what the Mac experience can be like. Then, of course, there's the iPhone, which is really starting to draw people to Macs for the first time," said Starman.

"It's a simple interface and a more secure machine. There are a lot of reasons to believe [Macs] are coming into their own as enterprise devices."

When it comes to running Windows on Mac, Parallels is facing stiff competition from VMware, which released its Fusion 3 virtualization software on Oct. 27. Much like Parallels, VMware is offering support for Apple's Snow Leopard operating system and support for Windows 7 features.

Parallels reports that, according to research conducted by the Crimson Consulting Group, Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac performs "22 percent faster than the nearest Windows-on-Mac competitor in standard productivity testing of Windows 7 64-bit on a MacBook Pro." Testers in eWEEK's labs, however, have preferred VMware's Fusion 3 to an earlier version of the Parallels solution.

Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac is available in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish, with Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish and Russian coming in the next few weeks. It's priced at $79.99, which the company says includes $175 worth of additional software for free.

Existing customers can update their software for $49.99, and customers who purchased Version 4 on or after Oct. 1, and still have a proof of purchase, are entitled to a free upgrade. The solution can be purchased at Apple stores,, Best Buy, Target and a number of other retailers.

A free trial is available at the Parallels' Website.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Changes have been made to reflect that eWEEK testers preferred VMWare's Fusion 3 to an earlier version of the Parallels solution. Desktop 5 for Mac was not available at the time of the comparison. Also, the solution is 300 percent faster, not 300 times faster.