Parallels recently released version 4 of Parallels Desktop, their Mac virtualization app that lets you run other operating systems such as Windows and Linux alongside Mac OS X. The new version promises even better integration with the Mac, and up to 50% faster operation.
I’m a relatively happy Parallels 3 user, but I’m not upgrading to 4 – at least, not yet. The Parallels support forums are inundated with upgrade problems, reports of v4 being slow as molasses, horror stories involving Windows BSODs and Windows activation issues, complaints about poor technical support, and lots of irate users demanding their money back. Enough to put me off for now, thank you very much.
This Register article paints a pretty gloomy picture of the whole torrid affair. Of course, you’re going to get problems and complaints on a support forum, but nevertheless it does sound like version 4 has some serious issues.
I had a hunch this would happen sooner or later. Parallels strikes me as a company that has grown at a faster rate than it can handle. They caught the Intel Mac wave at just the right time, trouncing the market leader, VMware, with a solid, fast app that let a whole bunch of new Intel Mac users run Windows on their Macs. Along with Boot Camp, Parallels was probably a big contributor to the success of Apple’s move to Intel.
Now, Parallels may have become a victim of its own success. With over a million Parallels Desktop users (and all the sales and support issues that entails), and growing competition from the likes of VMware and VirtualBox, the company seems to be groaning under the strain. In their rush to catch up with VMware’s Fusion 2.0 release, it sounds like Parallels’ developers may have rushed Desktop 4.0 out the door without proper Q&A or beta testing.
This is all a shame because, at its heart, Parallels Desktop is a very nice product. I’ve used Parallels versions 2 and 3 for years now, and, for those times when I do have to hold my nose and boot Windows(!), it’s perfect. What’s more, it sounds like Parallels Desktop 4 is potentially a big improvement over both version 3 and VMware Fusion 2.1 – if only it worked properly.
I hope Parallels manages to sort out the version 4 issues soon, before their reputation gets too badly tarnished and more disgruntled customers jump ship to VMware Fusion or VirtualBox. Personally I’m holding out for 4.1 before I consider upgrading.