I’ve been using the beta of (now-released) Parallels for about a week now, and I’m really impressed by it. I’ve played around with most of the virtualization technologies for OS X over the last year, and have really gone back and forth on them. I’ve used Boot Camp for a while, in particular to get some familiarity with Vista, I’ve used Parallels a bunch for personal reasons (to run Quicken on Windows, a far superior experience to Quicken on the Mac) and for work reasons (to test Firefox versions, mostly).
When it came out, I wasn’t super-impressed with Coherence, a feature in Parallels that hides everything but for the application windows that you’re working in, including the Windows desktop. But now, with this release, it’s fantastic. I used it most of the weekend to work on updating my Quicken info, and it really felt much like Quicken was just another application on my Mac desktop.
I’ve always been a little skeptical about Windows apps on Mac — just because there are so many OS-level services that modern OSes supply and modern applications depend on — that I never felt that application-level virtualization would work. This approach — visually hiding the OS, except when you need it — falls short of application virtualization, but I think provides just about the best experience you could hope for. [caveat: the beta that I’m using is a little crashy — we’ll see what happens when I get around to upgrading to the release version.]
Performance is much better, too — in fact, I’m running Vista on Parallels, and it’s working great.
They’ve also included snapshots, which makes Parallels much more suitable for testing than previously — and the UI for them seems to be a good step forward.
One side note: I made the mistake of installing Google Desktop on my first instance of Vista, and it really, really made life suck. It’s not exactly Google’s fault — the Google indexing + Vista indexing was just completely maxing out my system. (And, in fact, Google has filed a Justice Department complaint about just this thing, and it seems to me to have some merit.
Over the weekend, since I had Vista installations on my mind, I also tried out VMWare’s Fusion Beta 4 — it seems to me that they’re falling further behind Parallels, not catching up. I tried to use Unity (their name for Coherence), which is notable because it does the same thing, but, I guess, with drop shadows, but it doesn’t seem to work yet with Vista.