Parallels Desktop 14 shows the maturity of client hypervisors; but their role is evolving

Parallels Desktop for Mac 14 brings the expected performance improvements, but more importantly, Parallels has a wide range of tools that can adapt to the changing landscape.

By Jack Madden and Kyle Johnson

Parallels today announced the release of Parallels Desktop for Mac 14. Gabe covered the maturity of Parallels Desktop 13 (and VMware Fusion 10) a year ago, so we wanted to take a look at the new features in Parallels Desktop 14 and see what else has changed.

As it turns out, most of the features that Parallels is touting this year are incremental improvements. That’s not a bad thing, just a sign of a mature category. However, we couldn’t help but think about the changing role of client hypervisors.

What’s actually new in Parallels Desktop for Mac 14?

Unsurprisingly, Parallels 14 will include macOS Mojave support once the OS goes into GA, including for everyone’s favorite new feature, Dark Mode.

Beyond that, Parallels for Mac 14 largely focuses on performance increases, such as claimed 80% faster app launching and 10% quicker boot time. Still, there were some new features we liked. In particular, virtual machine snapshots are now approximately 15% smaller, though the press release is careful to note that users upgrading to the new release won’t see an immediate reduction in VM size, as the optimizations happen in the background. Parallels Desktop 14 also now includes a Free Up Disk Space dialog that will suggest additional space-saving actions across multiple VMs.

Lastly, we liked the support for pressure sensitivity in apps through Windows Ink, which can be done using both the Macbook trackpad and a Wacom tablet.

Parallels Desktop Screenshot

The evolution of client hypervisors

Last year, Gabe wrote: “It's safe to say that while this area of desktop virtualization isn't the sexiest, there are still enough demands for VMware and Parallels to continue investing in the platforms.” This got us thinking about the changing roles of client hypervisors, especially because we spent a lot of time on the topic (both bare metal and type 2) from around 2008 to 2012.

Among the many use cases that came up was BYO MacBooks, the idea being that IT could provision a fairly standard corporate VM, and then be free to ignore all the different, unfamiliar aspects of Macs. Now, this was never the best approach, since users choose Macs for the software UX, not just the sleek hardware.

Fortunately, native Mac management has been exploding in the enterprise in the last few years. Parallels’ own offering, in the form of an extension for Microsoft SCCM, came out in 2013. (It can also manage Parallels Desktop.)

The more important client hypervisor use case, of course, is for Mac users that need to also run specific Windows-only applications—Native Mac management could reach complete saturation, but this use case will still be around. Also, don’t forget that Parallels has yet another option here, Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS). (We covered the 2015 acquisition that turned into RAS as well as the most recent update in July.)

So the result is that thanks to Parallels Desktop, Mac Management for SCCM, and RAS, they can offer a whole array of options: Do you want to deploy VMs, or manage Macs natively? If you’re going with native management, do you still need some Windows apps? Would they be better running locally or remotely? Whatever happens in enterprise Mac trends, they’re ready.

Along those lines, this summer we heard rumors about Apple moving Macs over to proprietary ARM-based chips. Surely that would result in a big engineering project for Parallels (and other client hypervisor vendors) to create a new offering; and there would likely be a performance hit that would change the math of when you would want to go local versus remote for your Windows apps. But again, Parallels seems like they would be ready, no matter which way this goes.

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