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The good companion

Apple used Parallels Desktop to run Linux on a Big Sur Mac when it announced the new operating system at WWDC online in June. A stray Dock icon suggested that Windows support – at least on Intel-based Macs – would follow. Now it has arrived:  Parallels Desktop lets you run both Windows and Linux on your Mac.

The company has declined to say anything concerning the fate of Parallels Desktop support for Apple Silicon Macs, but did point to the major investment it had to make in order to support Big Sur at all.

One major change in Big Sur is the removal of support for third-party kernel extensions (kexts), which is what Parallels relied on for its emulation. As a result of the abandonment of such extensions on the Mac, the company had to dedicate a great deal of energy to replace them with native Mac virtualization code.

“Parallels invested more than 25-man-years of engineer programming to take full advantage of the new macOS Big Sur architecture and revamped kernel extensions to deliver our best Windows-on-Mac performance ever for our Parallels Desktop 16 customers,” said Nick Dobrovolskiy, Parallels Senior Vice President of Engineering and Support in a statement.

The move away from kernel extensions in favor of native virtualization code has helped deliver useful performance improvements. It launches twice as fast as before, handles DirectX content at a 20% better speed and delivers 75% better “git status” when running Linux. You also get 10% better battery life when running a VM, and can set your virtual machines to automatically return disk space when they are shut down.

Something for the enterprise

Parallels has also thought about serving the needs of workplace users in the enterprise edition of the software, which supports corporate VM provisioning. This means IT can easily configure VMs with preinstalled applications to upload and host for employees to securely download and run on their Macs.

With many enterprises now running modern Mac and iOS as well as legacy Windows applications, the ability to provision devices in this way should be useful.

There are a variety of other changes of interest:

The user interface has been tweaked to reflect the appearance of Big Sur.

The software supports 3D in Metal applications when running a Big Sir virtual machine on Big Sur.

Printers can be shared across operating systems and virtual machines.

There's support for zoom and rotate gestures on multitouch trackpads for Windows.

OpenGL support is improved, so it runs a wider selection of Windows applications.

When you install Parallels Desktop on your Mac, the software will automatically detect that you don’t have a copy of Windows installed and will ask if you want to download the OS from Microsoft. You can purchase a full Windows license later on.

When is it available?

Parallels Desktop 16 is available now.

The standard edition costs $99.99. Pro and Business editions are available for a $99.99 annual subscription and you can upgrade from versions 14 or 15 of the solution for $49.99.

Parallels Desktop 16 subscribers also receive complimentary concurrent subscriptions to Parallels Toolbox for Mac and Windows and Parallels Access. The latter lets you remotely access up to five PC or Mac computers from iPad, iPhone and Android.

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