There are some significant changes coming in macOS Big Sur. One that particularly affects virtualisation software is the deprecation of third-party kernel extensions (aka kexts).
“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 Parallels senior vice president of engineering and support Nick Dobrovolskiy.
This process involved rewriting Parallels Desktop to use system extensions and Apple's Virtualization framework on place of kernel extensions.
While "it's getting harder and harder to deliver more performance," according to Parallels senior product manager Kurt Schmucker, Parallels Desktop 16 launches twice as fast as its predecessor, DirectX is up to 20% faster, Windows resumes up to 20% faster, and reverting to a snapshot is up to 30% faster.
The addition of OpenGL 3.2 support means additional Windows applications can be used under Parallels Desktop 16, including Dialux evo 9 (lighting design), Samson Connect (molecular modelling) and ProPresenter (presentation and production for live events).
Trackpad zoom and rotate gestures can be used where supported by individual Windows applications, and improvements to shared printers mean a wider range of printer features (eg, duplex printing and support for more paper sizes) are accessible without having to install the corresponding Windows printer driver.
Battery life is extended by up to 10% when Windows travel mode is activated.
Parallels Desktop has for some time included the ability to free up unused storage space when shutting down virtual machines, but this has been a manual process. Parallels Desktop 16 optionally does this job automatically. While it can take several minutes depending on the speed of the drive and the amount of data involved, the savings can be significant – Schmucker showed an example where around 45GB could be reclaimed.
When Big Sur is the guest OS, Parallels Desktop 16 supports Metal applications with 3D capabilities such as Maps. This is a world first, Parallels claims.
Parallels Desktop 16 is available immediately, and an update will be provided if needed to address any compatibility issues that occur with the release version of macOS Big Sur.
The basic edition of Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac costs $137.45 for a new perpetual licence or $71.45 for an upgrade from any edition to a perpetual licence (these are only available directly from the Parallels website, according to Parallels APAC channel manager Ary Collet), or $109.95 per year for a subscription licence.
Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac Pro Edition adds more than 50 "useful and time-saving features," according to the company.
New to the version 16 Pro Edition are the ability to create and name custom networks, and 'Prepare for transfer' which exports a VM in a compressed format as a .zip file for easier and faster transfer to new hardware.
Parallels Desktop for Mac Pro Edition is available now, and costs $71.45 a year when upgrading from any edition, or $137.45 a year for new subscriptions.
Then there's Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac Business Edition, which includes all Pro Edition features, plus:
• Corporate VM provisioning
• Centralised administration of new Parallels Desktop updates, new feature releases, upgrades and new macOS releases
• Passwordless update so users can keep Parallels Desktop up to date even if they do not have administrator privileges on their Macs
• Installation without rebooting on macOS Big Sur hosts.
Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac Business Edition is available now, and costs $137.45 a year.
All Parallels Desktop subscriptions include complimentary concurrent subscriptions to Parallels Toolbox for Mac and Windows, and Parallels Access (which were recently updated and are also available as separate products).
Free trials of Parallels Desktop 16 are available.