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We have written about Parallels for Mac before. That time it was about Parallels addition of Boot Camp support and drag and drop between Windows and OS X. Since then, Parallels has been steadily improving on their software to make the best use possible of their head start against VMware. The kicker was going to be 3D support in their next release. But did they do to little too late?

Parallels have been saying for a while that they’re working on 3D acceleration. On their official blog in January Parallels said, “We’re still on track to add this in the next major upgrade version.” But if this was Parallels great advantage, there is bad news on the horizon: they’re not the only ones on track. Engadget recently reposted a YouTube video showing VMware run full speed 3D graphics on a Mac. If this is an indication of how VMware will run when it’s released on the Mac, Parallels might have some serious competition on their hands.

It’s hard to overstate how much Parallels has benefited from being first to market. They got some very healthy buzz. Now they’re prominently on sale in the Apple Store, and have even been mentioned in a footnote in one of the Apple advertisements. But fame or no fame, it is also true that Parallels has not always been doing a great job with the actual software. Parallels for Mac is frequently riddled with little quirks and bugs. When the software was first released, it routinely caused kernel panics, at least on my machine. At the time of this writing a search for “usb problem” on the Parallels forum turns up 391 results.

The truth of the matter is that there has always been a sense of lack of polish with the Parallels software. Consider the following message which is displayed when starting the latest beta. It has some fairly peculiar grammatical structure.

Parallels Message

In case you can’t read it, the message is “Parallels Tools initializing [sic] is in progress. Please do not turn off or reset the virtual machine, and do not perform any operations in the guest operating system until Parallels Tools initializing [sic] will be complete, because it may result in data loss.”

I’m not an English expert but this sure sounds rather awkward to me.

When VMware releases their product it is likely to have been both proofread and carefully debugged. It is likely that it will look and feel like any professional application you use. The only saving grace for Parallels then will be established market share, and any additional features they managed to finish in the time between their release and VMware’s release. If Parallels was banking on their 3D support, they’re heading out into deep water if the video demonstration above is genuine.

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  1. Casey says:

    I can’t say that I’m unhappy with Parallels. It is certainly doing the trick for me right now and I haven’t had any problems with it.

    Having said that, VMware is a BIG company with a huge amount of resources. Parallels is not lightweight (owned by SWSoft) but really can’t compete toe-to-toe with EMC.

    It will be interesting to see how quickly VMware eats into Parallels market share.

  2. I’m not unhappy with Parallels either, actually. I use it daily, and I’ve learnt to live with the small imperfections. But the company has its work cut out for it.

  3. J. Nunn says:

    I use Parallels daily too–but is it me or is there a gaping memory leak somewhere? I’ve got 2.5 GB of ram and 1GB assigned to Windows in the virtual machine–but it still makes all my other (Mac Os X) apps run slow, even long after I close down Parallels.

    I’ll be checking out VMware just to see if it’s any better at handling my multi-tasking tendencies.

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