While I don’t yet own an Intel-based Mac, I do keep an eye on software specifically designed for them, and am quite pleased to see that there’s continual progress with the available virtual machine software. Parallels now has some competition with the release of beta versions of VMware, which dominates the virtualization software market in the Windows world. Competition between the top VM makers is a great thing for Mac users, as they’ll continually be raising the bar, bringing new features and lower prices.
Parallels just made a major leap in their latest release, adding a new feature which utilizes your Boot Camp partition within a virtual machine. Doing this eliminates the need to maintain two installations of Windows, as well as activating XP twice with the same key. How it works is still a bit of a mystery to me, as the updated software must note the current hardware configuration of your Mac and emulate it in the virtual machine, as Windows can be picky about re-activation when devices change significantly. Unless the developers at Parallels have figured out some clever way to handle XP’s continual hardware detection, I can’t see how it would work any other way.
Technical implementation aside, being able to keep only one copy of Windows on your Mac is great, allowing you to run it in a VM when you need to accomplish a small task, and to boot it fully to play games or run more demanding software. Macworld has more details on this update, and Dan at MacUser posted his experiences with it (and some of the required utilities).