If you thought virtualization couldn't get any sexier, your mind is about to be blown. Last Thursday Parallels 3.0 was announced for the Mac, and the 3D gaming support it has going on is crazy-gorgeous.
For those not in the know, Parallels is a program that enables Intel-based Mac users to use Windows while running Mac OS X. Which means, unlike Boot Camp, you don't have to reboot and then choose between one or the other. You can also float Windows apps on the OS X platform, which is one of the bigger boons of Parallels.
Less than four months after its last update (on the heels of Vista), Parallels Desktop 3.0 comes with a wince-worthy US$ 49.99 upgrade fee. If you act fast though, you can nail the upgrade for US$ 39.99 through June 6.
Despite its myriad benefits, this upgrade rings a little iffy (possibly the reason for the discount) because 3.0 beta testing is private this time around, as opposed to Parallels 2.0, where everything was out on the table. And with over 50 new features added to 3.0, there are a lot of potential bugs that we're sure Parallels users would prefer to learn about sooner rather than later.
One new feature that's getting a lot of hype is called SmartSelect, an integration tool that enables users to open files from Windows or Mac OS X using apps from either operating system.
SmartSelect is neat because you can select a Windows app, for example, to be the default program for opening certain types of documents, and it'll automatically open just the way a Mac-based application would. The Parallels blog calls this "total OS integration on a file and application level."
Paired with Coherence, which affords the ability to open Windows apps directly from Mac OS X, and you've got a fairly seamless Windows-to-Mac marriage.
3D graphics have also been significantly improved for v3.0 -- now you can actually play Windows-based games with support for OpenGL and DirectX graphics software. You don't even have to reboot. And the visuals alone are pretty clean, with no unusual laggage.
There's also a Snapshots feature to help store Parallels' "virtual machine" state at custom intervals. You can also roll back to previous states as-needed, and the Vm Sentry enables you to manage levels of integration and isolation.
The virtual machine can also be made read-only.
Whether or not you decide to leap on the US$ 10 discount and register before June 6, Parallels is bestowing all with a six-month trial of virus and spyware protection. Remember: if you're going to bring Windows into your Mac clubhouse, you're susceptible to kinds of viruses that typically affect a PC.
Private testing is supposed to last this next few weeks, after which Desktop 3.0 will be ready to hit the road. To commit now, possible bugs and all, be our guest and upgrade.
In recent, somewhat-related news, Microsoft castrated its promised first-generation Viridian hypervisor offering in a mad rush to get it released on time. So in the world of virtualization technology, Parallels rules the house for awhile yet.