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Review: New Parallels, Fusion virtual desktops for OS X fail the smell test

Galen Gruman | Sept. 6, 2013
Parallels has interesting ideas that only half work, and Fusion adds almost nothing new beyond better hardware support

VMware didn't take the opportunity to standardize how it maps the Windows key commands in Fusion; as in the last version, sometimes you press Command and sometimes you have to press Cmd-Shift with the key to get the Windows key equivalent. That's a real usability blocker.

In other words, Fusion 6 is not much of an upgrade. Make no mistake: Fusion is a fine product, but there's no reason to pay $50 for the current version.

Parallels Desktop 9: Making Windows 8 a little less objectionableUnlike Fusion, the new version of Parallels tries to add something new for users to experience.

A neat idea is shared access to your cloud storage — be it iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and/or SkyDrive. Its appeal may not be so apparent until you realize that these cloud storage services copy their files to your local devices in a cache while you're connected; if both your Mac and VM access one of these services, you end up with two caches taking space. When running Windows, Parallels displays the iCloud (including Photo Stream), Google Drive, and Dropbox caches on your Mac as if they were local folders in Windows. They're actually aliases.

Likewise, your SkyDrive folder in Windows is supposed to appear as an alias on the Mac, in the Devices section of Finder windows. But even after installing the SkyDrive desktop app in the Windows 7 portion of Windows 8 (so that it appears in the File Explorer), I couldn't get it to display on the Mac.

Also, if you use SkyDrive on the Mac, it's not aliased to your Windows VM as the other services are, nor to Box in either direction. Cloud aliasing doesn't work if you're running an OS X VM on your Mac either.

But most of what Parallels proposes to make Desktop better in the new version has to do with Windows 8. Nearly everyone who's used Windows 8 strongly dislikes it; everyone I know who's tried it has bought a Mac or found one of the few remaining Windows 7 PCs at Dell or Hewlett-Packard instead. Not a single person I know went with Windows 8 by choice — and these people were not fanboys of any platform.

So making Windows 8 work better is a laudable goal that may have limited appeal. After all, one of the beautiful aspects of running Windows in a VM is that you aren't forced to switch to a new version when you get new hardware. A Mac can be a Windows 7 PC you run forever.

But let's say that you have to run Windows 8. Parallels Desktop 9 claims to make it less obnoxious.

 

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