Parallels has unveiled a new version of Desktop for Mac that extends support for Windows 10 as a guest operating system, enabling Cortana to listen for spoken commands and boosting performance and battery life, among other features.
Available immediately, Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac is the latest version of the software that lets Apple users run other operating systems alongside OS X on a Mac, providing access to Microsoft's Office suite for Windows, for example, as well as enabling them to develop for the Microsoft platform.
The new release adds a number of features to support newer releases of Windows and OS X, as well as performance improvements and the usual tweaks to bring the benefits of Windows features to the Mac environment and vice versa.
Parallels added support for the Windows 10 Technical Preview builds in the previous Desktop 10 for Mac release, but now that Windows 10 is out the firm is delivering a refresh to make sure it fully supports the shipping version.
In addition, Desktop 11 for Mac is "El Capitan-ready" and will run on this upcoming next version of OS X when it is released, Parallels said.
One of the features Parallels has endeavoured to support fully in Desktop 11 for Mac is the Cortana personal assistant built into Windows 10. This can listen in the background so that if the user speaks the key phrase 'Hey Cortana' it will respond even if the Windows 10 virtual machine is not currently running in the foreground.
Meanwhile, Parallels has enabled the Mac Quick Look file viewer feature to work with documents inside a Windows virtual machine.
Another key focus has been to ensure that users can upgrade virtual machines to Windows 10, according to Parallels global marketing manager Alexander Pantos, as Microsoft is encouraging Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to upgrade.
"It's kind of unusual to upgrade the operating system inside virtual machines, and there are some checks on the hardware that the Windows 10 setup routine performs where it could fall down, so we wanted to make sure in Desktop 11 that you don't have to read knowledge base articles - it just works," he told V3.
Parallels claims that performance is improved under the new release. Tasks in Windows complete up to 20 percent faster, virtual machines suspend faster, and boot time and shut down times can be as much as 50 percent faster than before.
Desktop 11 introduces a feature called Travel Mode, which configures the virtual machine to consume less energy when the host Mac is running on batteries. In this mode, Windows 10 is also prevented from automatically downloading and installing updates, something that users themselves have little control over in the consumer edition of Windows 10.
With this release, Parallels Desktop is also now being offered in three editions: Standard, Pro and Business.
The Pro Edition is aimed at developers and adds integration with Docker containers, a Visual Studio plug-in, guest operating system debugging and network simulation.
The Business Edition includes capabilities previously offered under the Parallels Desktop for Mac Enterprise Edition, such as administrator tools that enable IT departments to control and manage virtual machines, as well as manage and administer licences via the new Parallels Licence Management Portal.
Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac costs £64.99 for the standard edition, with upgrades for existing Desktop 9 or 10 customers set at £34.99. Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac Pro Edition and Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac Business Edition are licensed at £69.99 per seat per year.
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