Mac users prep for Windows 8

Virtualisation software from Parallels, VMware updated for Mountain Lion, Windows 8

The two best-known virtualization products for the Mac, Parallels Desktop for Mac and Fusion, have both now produced updates optimized for the upcoming Windows 8.

Parallels released Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac today as an upgrade for current users, following VMware, which shipped its Fusion 5 last week.

Both titles sell for $50, although Parallels will price the non-upgrade edition at $80 when it ships that version Sept. 4. VMware also sells a corporate edition, Fusion 5 Professional, for $100.

Both Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac and Fusion 5 have been reworked to take advantage of OS X Mountain Lion, the operating system Apple launched last month, and promise solid support for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8.

Windows 8 is slated to debut Oct. 26, but the final code, dubbed RTM for "release to manufacturing," has been available to some users for two weeks.

Another virtual machine option is Oracle's free VirtualBox, which can be downloaded from the company's website.

Obviously, Mac users must also obtain a copy of Windows 8 to run the new Microsoft operating system in a virtual machine.

Current virtualized copies of Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 can be upgraded to Windows 8 -- just as can those running on physical hardware -- when the latter debuts. Microsoft has priced the upgrade to Windows 8 Pro at just $39.99, an all-time low for the Redmond, Wash. developer.

Microsoft will also offer a newly-named "System Builder" version of Windows 8 in October. System Builder -- a name change from "OEM," not to be confused with the OEM licenses used by computer makers to install the OS on factory floors -- is the SKU that targets virtualization. System Builder's price, however, has not yet been disclosed.

But Mac owners can take advantage of a loophole to create a new virtual machine now, then use that as the foundation for an upgrade in October, sidestepping the System Builder price and obtaining Windows 8 for $39.99.

To do that, Mac users can download and install the free Windows 8 Release Preview, the late-May sneak peek Microsoft still provides free of charge. When Microsoft issues the final code in two months, users can then upgrade the Release Preview to Windows 8 Pro using the discounted $39.99 price, which is good through the end of January 2013.

Mac owners should also be able to install Windows 8 using Boot Camp, the OS X utility that lets them run Windows in a separate partition. Although Boot Camp in OS X Lion and Mountain Lion officially supports only Windows 7, users have installed previews of Windows 8 with the tool.

An update to Boot Camp may be required, however, before Windows 8 will work flawlessly in its own partition. Apple has issued similar updates in the past for Boot Camp.

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac and Fusion 5 can be purchased online at the Parallels and VMware sites, respectively.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about virtualization in Computerworld's Virtualization Topic Center.

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