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Parallels Desktop 8 For Mac Gets an Upgrade As Windows 8 Release Draws Closer

Instead of shelling out for one of those sexy 15″ Retina Display MacBook Pro’s that was announced earlier this year, I decided to keep my mid-2010 13″ MacBook Pro and jazz it up with an 4 additional gigabytes of RAM, and added a 240GB Solid State Drive. I also replaced my optical (CD) drive with the 250GB hard drive that came with my laptop. In lamen’s terms, I now have a faster laptop with a ton of extra storage space to play with.

Another reason for the upgrade is I’m intrigued with the upcoming Windows 8 release, so I made sure I had enough speed and space to install the new Microsoft desktop OS and keep my Mac OS. The way I plan to do this is by running Windows 8 as a virtual machine, with the help of Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac.

As a self-proclaimed Technology Evangelist, I feel I must stay up on the latest and greatest. Plus, even through we are an “Apple house”, most of my family, friends, and others who reach out to me for tech consult, use Microsoft Windows. So while I want to install Windows 8 on my Mac to figure out the nuts and bolts to satisfy my own geeky appetite, I need a way to quickly switch to Windows to fulfill my “IT Support” duties. So the folks from Parallels sent me a copy of their latest version that will let me run Windows on my Mac, without shutting down and restarting my computer every time I need to use the Windows virtual machine.

I’ve used previous versions of the Parallels Desktop software to tinker with earlier developer and consumer preview releases of Windows 8 and it worked well. I was able to get a good idea of what the new Windows 8 “desktop” layout would look like, and play with other aspects of the os. For instance, I was able to decide how I was going to feel about Microsoft removing the “Start” button and the new Metro-style Windows 8 main interface. Turns out, I’m not that messed up about it. All this while keeping my Mac OS untouched, just in case I messed something up on the Windows side. The latest Windows 8 preview version included even more functionality for early-adopters to discover right before the official launch later in October. So, in preparation of the final release, Parallels 8 Desktop for Mac unleashed some new features as well so users like me can get familiar with the capabilities before the general public.

First and foremost, PD8 includes Mac OS X Mountain Lion support for the majority of Mac users who upgraded their OS, and Retina display support for the minority of Mac users who did in fact, spring for the new High-Def MacBook. For example, Mountain Lion released the new Notification Center that can be quickly uncovered to show email, iMessage, calendar and social media notifications. When my Windows virtual machine is up and running, those notifications (like Windows Messenger or Outlook notifications) show up in the Mac Notification center as well. I don’t have to actually do anything with the virtual machine to get an at-a-glance view. Another addition that cam with Mountain Lion was improved “Siri-like” Dictation. PD8 adds dictation support that any Windows

Another feature I like is Bluetooth integration that lets me seamlessly use a Bluetooth device (like a mic, speakers, or camera) with either my Mac or the Windows virtual machine without doing some kind of weird, unplug device, switch desktops, plug device back up ritual. Since I’m a neat-freak, I can also appreciate the ability to monitor how much processor and memory my Windows virtual machine uses. That helps me decide how I organize my system files, documents, videos, music and pictures, across my SSD and HD storage.

Opening and working in my Windows virtual machine is as simple as opening an Mac application. I can also add often-used Windows apps to the Mac app dock for quick access, if I choose to use Windows “like a Mac” (Windows programs appear on the Mac desktop, just like Mac applications. Documents and media from Mac OS X and Windows are kept together on your Mac). If I want to keep everything separate, I can operate Windows “like a PC” (Windows desktop and programs appear in a single window, separate from Mac applications).

Time will tell if I can give the completely redesigned (but still the same underneath) Windows 8 OS the thumbs up. One thing is for sure, with Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, I don’t have to give trade the familiarity or the normal use of My Mac just to experiment with Windows 8…And I can still troubleshoot printer issues with “Momma Tech”

That’s my Mother, just in case you’re not familiar with my family [tech] naming scheme.