Both Parallels and VMware, the two frontrunners in virtualization software for OS X, have released updated versions of their VM software, including not only speed improvements, but also support for the latest version of OS X, Mavericks, which is expected to be released by the end of September.
Virtualization packages allow you to run a secondary OS directly on the hardware of your current system, without any emulation to mimic hardware functionality. As a result, virtualization offers a much faster means of running a secondary operating system, with many programs and services running at full native speeds or even faster in some cases. In addition, with the proper amount of RAM and other resources you can run multiple guest operating systems simultaneously, to test software, run servers, and perform other tasks.
There are three primary virtualization packages for OS X. The first is the free VirtualBox from Oracle, which can serve many people's basic needs, and then there are the commercial offerings VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop, both of which offer more integrated, optimized, and seamless approaches to virtualization.
VMware and Parallels have been in heated competition, and have regularly released new versions of their software within similar time frames.
Because of the impending update to OS X Mavericks, both developers have been pressured to ensure compatibility with the new operating system before it is released (expected later this month), and recently both have announced the availability of their latest versions. Parallels 9 will be available tomorrow, September 5, with the following features:
- Support for documents saved in numerous cloud services.
- Enhanced Windows 8 and 8.1 support, including the Start menu and offering the Metro interface in a window.
- Security Center for managing malware threats to virtual machines.
- Enhanced new Virtual Machine Wizard.
- Power Nap support for Macs that support it, allowing VMs to update when the Mac is asleep.
- Mac gestures inside Windows apps.
- Thunderbolt and FireWire storage device support.
- OS X PDF printer support for Windows applications.
- Sticky multimonitor setup, so VM programs will remember their location in different monitor setups.
- Editable keyboard shortcuts to help customize the Windows experience.
- Enhanced Linux guest operating system integration.
However, not to be left out, VMware has released Fusion 6, which brings similar features to this platform, including optimized support for Windows 8 and 8.1, easier VM installation, faster speed and custom resource control when running under OS X Mavericks, and efficiency to maximize battery life.
Historically, Parallels Desktop has edged out VMware Fusion in terms of performance, but VMware Fusion has not been far behind. As optimizations are implemented in both programs, we will wait and see whether or not VMware can take the lead.
Both software packages have free trial options so you can install both to see which works best for you. Parallels Desktop is a $79.99 purchase for the full version ($39.99 for eligible students), with upgrades from Parallels Desktop 7 or 8 being $49.99. VMWare Fusion is priced at $59.99 for the full version, with upgrades for version 4 being $49.99.