WWDC: Parallels beta improves USB support, more

Parallels on Tuesday announced a beta update of its Parallels Desktop for Mac software, a virtualization technology that enables Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP and other PC-compatible operating systems alongside Mac OS X. Parallels Desktop for Mac costs $79.99, and a 15-day trial is available for download.

The new beta version of Parallels Desktop includes USB improvements like support for Windows Mobile 5 devices, Web camera support, and a broader list of supported devices. Complete keyboard support is now offered, including the “eject CD” button and right and left shift-mapping for non-English keyboard layouts.

Mac hard disk cache can be switched off for a virtual machine running in Parallels Desktop — that can “substantially improve” Mac OS X performance while using Parallels Desktop, according to the developer.

Unicode paths are now support, and shared folders performance has been improved. So has graphics performance, and minor bug fixes have also been made.

Parallels reacts to VMWare, Virtual PC

Monday saw two substantial news items of note to Mac users who want or need to run Windows and other X86-compatible operating systems on their Intel Macs. First, established enterprise virtualization technology developer VMWare announced plans to support the Mac, and Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit said it won’t develop its once-popular PC emulator Virtual PC to run on Intel-based Macs.

Both of these developments, said Parallel spokesman Ben Rudolph, point to Parallels’ dominant position as a virtual machine developer for Mac OS X.

“While we’re glad that VMWare is endorsing the Apple market and foresaw their entry as part of their focus on enterprise-class software and building products for highly technical users like software developers and testers, we believe that Desktop’s unmatched ease of use, consumer-focused feature set, as well as our strong backing from Apple and great retail presence in the Apple Stores, Staples, Office Depot and more, will keep us the number one choice for Apple users who want to run Windows on their Macs,” said Rudolph in a statement.

Coming soon: Vista support, fast 3D graphics, new interface

Rudolph also pointed to further improvements in Parallels Desktop for Mac, including what’s described as “a groundbreaking new user interface that will make running Windows on a Mac easier and more productive than ever before;” new security and management tools; the ability to burn CDs and DVDs inside virtual machines and a new Server for Mac OS X product.

What’s more, Parallels Desktop for Mac will see “fast 3D graphics support,” presumably to help cater to gamers who want to run Windows games without having to reboot their machine using Boot Camp and a separate Windows partition. Also planned is support for Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Vista, the major update to Windows Microsoft has planned for the first calendar quarter of 2007.

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