Readers' Choice Awards: Parallels Desktop and 24-inch iMac

Ever since we put some plaudit-dispensing duties in the hands of our readers three years ago, Apple has enjoyed a stranglehold on the Readers’ Choice Awards. In 2004 and 2005, Macworld readers from our Web site and our Reader Panel have decided that Steve Jobs and Company have made the best hardware and software of the year. But in 2006, Apple’s reader awards streak has come to an end—and it’s a product that helps you run Windows on a Mac that’s responsible.

parallels box shot
By an overwhelming margin, our readers declared that Parallels Desktop for Mac from Parallels was the best software of the past 12 months. The virtualization software lets users install and run operating systems other than Mac OS X on an Intel-based Mac without ever rebooting their computers. In a year that saw such cross-platform capabilities enter the consciousness of more Mac users, Parallels took center stage, even steering the spotlight away from Apple’s own Boot Camp solution. Readers seemed to recognize the significance of a program that makes the Mac a more compelling option for users in multi-platform settings—including people who might not even have considered the Mac just a few years ago.

The ability to quickly and easily install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac for cross-platform computing easily out-paced the seven other finalists, including Boot Camp, which finished a distant second. Also receiving a chunk of votes were the 3-D mapping application Google Earth and Apple’s revamped iTunes 7 music and video player/organizer. Other software finalists included the digital photography workflow application Aperture, the Firefox Web browser, the organizational tool Yojimbo, and >Flip4Mac, which gets Windows Media files to play in QuickTime.

Apple may be have lost out on our Readers’ Choice Award for software, but the company isn’t going home empty-handed, maintaining its iron grip on the Readers’ Choice for hardware of the year. In a tight three-way race, the 24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo edged out Apple’s two laptop offerings, the MacBook and MacBook Pro, by the slimmest of margins.

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Given how popular Apple’s laptops have proven to be, how did the iMac wind up on top of our reader survey? If we had to guess (besides the possibility that the MacBook and MacBook Pro split the laptop-loving vote), we’d say it was all that performance packed into the 24-inch iMac’s 2.33GHz processor. The first round of Intel-based iMacs were impressive, but swapping out their original Core Duo chip for a next-generation Core 2 Duo model sped things up considerably—so much so that our benchmarks found that the 24-inch iMac outperformed a quad-core 2GHz Mac Pro in many tests.

Speaking of the Mac Pro —the standard 2.66GHz quad-core configuration, that is—it finished a strong fourth in our reader poll. Other hardware finalists included the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, an iPod nano-compatible exercise accessory, and ATI’s Radeon 1900XT graphics card.

The Readers’ Choice Awards are given out in conjunction with Macworld ’s annual Editors’ Choice Awards. We solicit nominations for hardware and software in our forums, and then provide a list for finalists for readers to vote on. Voting takes places in the Macworld.com forums as well as through Macworld Reader Panel polling conducted by market-research firm Karlin Associates.

Past Readers’ Choice Winners

2004

  • Hardware of the Year: iMac G5, Apple
  • Software of the Year: Final Cut Pro HD 4.5, Apple
  • 2005

  • Hardware of the Year: Mac mini, Apple
  • Software of the Year: Mac OS X 10.4, Apple
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