Ever since Mac OS X 10.7 Lion was released, we have been looking forward to the ability to virtualize up to two instances of Lion on a Mac running Lion. Unfortunately, at launch, there was no way to accomplish this. Now, with the release of Parallels 7 for Mac, Lion can be virtualized.
Parallels Desktop was the first Mac virtualization product to run on Intel Macs and has been an excellent product all along. Some users, myself included, have used VMware Fusion, VMWare’s response to Parallels Desktop for Mac.
During the life of both products, each one has released improvements and then the other plays catch-up. Once again it appears that Parallels has the upper hand. From my experience with both products, I think Parallels Desktop does a better job of integrating the user experience between Windows and Mac OS X.
In any case, the new features in Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac include new Lion Integration features such as:
- Full-screen support
- Use of Launchpad for Windows apps
- Mission Control support
- Lion as a guest OS (on Lion only)
- Lion animations support
Parallels also states that the new version features “a more Mac-like appearance.” These features include:
- Immediate preferences without OK button
- All new Apple style standard help and documentation
- Enhanced user interface has a more polished look-and-feel
The company is also touting new “Virtual experience improvements” including the ability to easily make printers available to Windows and “seamlessly share your iSight or FaceTime HD camera with Windows applications like Windows Live Messenger.”
One feature that is especially welcome for novice users is the ability to purchase, download, and install Windows straight from Parallels Desktop. Although it is possible to buy Windows at a less expensive price, the hassle of manual installation may not be worth it for many users, especially users on a MacBook Air or current Mac mini models which lack optical drives. At this time, the ability to purchase, download, and install Windows from within Parallels Desktop is only available in the United States.
Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac has also added a number of new features that they categorize as “Manageability and Mobility” improvements. These features include:
- Longer battery life
- Mac OS parental controls apply to Windows programs
- Advanced encryption support for Windows programs on your Mac
- Enterprise-class deployment and management
- Next generation Parallels Mobile app
The company has also made major improvements to virtual machine boot time, faster networking, faster migration from a Windows PC, and overall faster performance. There is now the option of using up to 1GB of video memory for your virtual machine. This comes along with support for up to 192kHz audio formats and supports for additional games. Surround Sound 7.1 is also now supported with Windows XP, Vista, and 7 and can seamlessly be shared with your Mac. DirectX 9.0c/9Ex and Shader Model 3 support rounds out the improved 3D graphics support.
Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac is by far the best release ever and moves the bar that much higher for competing products. It is available for purchase from Parallels for immediate download. It is priced at $79.99 for new users or $49.99 as an upgrade from Parallels Desktop 5 or 6. If you are interested in virtualizing Lion, Parallels offers a knowledge base article with directions for two methods of install.