Most people who run Windows on their Macs do so out of obligation rather than a passion for Microsoft’s operating system, but business and occasionally educational software sometimes requires access to a PC. One of the most popular solutions has just been updated: Parallels has released Desktop 7 for Mac ($80), the same great virtualization software that you’re used to, now optimized for Lion with some enhancements and cool new features. Updated: We’ve added some impressions and screenshots of Desktop 7 for Mac below.
Some of the new features include integration of your Windows apps into Launchpad and Mission Control, as well as support for using your iSight or FaceTime camera in either OS. One of the biggest new features is thanks to how Apple licenses Lion: you can now run a second instance of it as a guest OS with just the one Mac App Store license. On top of those features, there are all sorts of speed and stability improvements like you’d expect with a major upgrade such as this. If you bought Desktop 6 in the past month, Parallels will give you a free upgrade to the new version; if you owned the software before, then you can upgrade for $50.
Update: Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac does a highly impressive job of simplifying the Windows installation process—though they’re apples and oranges, we daresay that it was even faster to get Windows 7 installed on our Mac using Parallels than it was to install OS X Lion. Once Windows 7 emulation is running in a window, it does require a considerable footprint of the Mac’s memory and CPU time, enough to noticeably slow down multitasking on the Mac side even on a machine with 12GB of RAM. But you’re able to run a full Windows environment at your choice of screen resolutions, complete with all the PC application and browser support you may need, and Aero is supported as well. The experience is just like using a Windows computer with somewhat diminished horsepower, albeit with superior security options… and the best feature of all—the ability to turn it off and switch right back to using your Mac again.