Parallels has updated its flagship virtual machine software for running Windows on Intel-based Macs so that it now lets users fire up Windows applications without having to look at Microsoft's operating system.
The newest edition, Parallels Desktop for Mac Release Candidate 3, adds a feature dubbed "Coherence" that runs Windows XP or Vista applications directly on the Mac OS X desktop.
Under Coherence, individual Windows applications show up as windows on the Macintosh desktop and can be docked just like any Mac app, according to information from Parallels. "Use Windows and Mac applications on your home OS X desktop at the same time ... [with] no moving between OSes," Parallels says on its Web site. Typically, users must switch between the host operating system and a guest OS in a virtual environment, in effect leaving one system's interface for the other. Coherence skips that part of the process.
Other changes to the software -- which has been in beta testing since last summer -- include drag-and-drop file transfer and copying between Mac and Windows virtual machines, support for USB 2.0, and an updated Transporter. The latter lets Windows users move the entire contents of an existing real PC to a Parallels virtual machine. Transporter can also convert VMware and Microsoft Virtual PC virtual machines to ones that run on Parallels.
The update, Build 3170, can be downloaded from the Renton, Wash., company's Web site. Parallels Desktop for Mac is priced at US$79.99; a 15-day free-trial product key can also be requested.
With Microsoft out of the Mac virtualization picture -- it announced last year that it would not update Virtual PC for Apple's Intel-based Macs -- Parallels' prime competition is VMware, which has software called Fusion in beta testing.