Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac: Taking virtual machines to 11

All images and video in this post ©2015 parallels inc.

All images and video in this post ©2015 parallels inc.

Late summer has become the time of year when the Big Two of Mac virtual machine software -- Parallels and VMware -- introduce the latest version of their marquee apps. The first to drop in 2015 is Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac, which adds a number of new features and improves on the performance of the app.

First, Parallels Desktop 11 is not only ready to run Windows 10, but also OS X 10.11 El Capitan -- both as a host operating system and as a virtual machine. For those who decide to run Windows 10 in a VM on their Mac, there are some really interesting capabilities -- like "always on Cortana", making Microsoft's virtual assistant available even while you're using your Mac. Since Apple hasn't yet brought Siri to Mac OS X, this provides the power of a virtual assistant on your Mac... or you could just use your Apple Watch and "Hey, Siri". 

Windows users can take advantage of some of the great features of El Capitan when the new OS officially ships, including Split View. Right now, Windows fans will get Quick Look for their Windows docs, location services in Windows apps, "most recently used" lists, synchronization of volume controls between Mac and Windows, easier printing, and more.

The performance enhancements are impressive, too. For Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, boot and shut down times can be as much as 50 percent faster. Tasks in Windows are about 20 percent faster, battery life is extended about 15 percent, and suspending a virtual machine -- always a time killer -- happens about 20 percent faster.

Other new features include being able to use the Windows 10 Action Center (akin to Notifications Center on the Mac) when Windows 10 is running in Coherence mode. A notification icon appears in the Mac menu bar, and the Action Center slides in from the right when it is clicked. Any file on the Mac can now be opened in Windows from a right-click menu.

If you're traveling, a new Travel Mode has Windows use less energy to save your battery, and automatically adjusts settings to make connecting to public networks more transparent.

Parallels also announced a new Pro Edition that includes advanced networking tools and configurations, integration with many developer productivity tools (Docker, Visual Studio, Chef, Jenkins, Vagrant, and more). For pros, virtual machines can have up to 16 virtual CPUs and 64GB of virtual RAM.

Finally, Parallels Desktop for Mac Business Edition will see changes this fall, including new license key tools, business cloud support (Box, OneDrive, Dropbox for Business), and premium support.

Pricing for Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac is $79.99 for a new license or users of Desktop 9 or 10 can upgrade for just $49.99. The Pro and Business Editions are available at a subscription price of $99.99 per year, and users of Parallels Desktop 9 and 10 can upgrade to Pro Edition for just $49.99 per year.

We'll have a full review and tutorial on setting up Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan and Windows 10 in Parallels Desktop 11 soon.