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Parallels has popped out its next version of the software firm’s virtualisation platform, Desktop for Mac 4.0, which includes the ability for customers to run Windows on their Apple machines.

The company is keen to capitalise on a steady but growing market: frustrated Vista customers who are making the switch to Apple but are a bit panicky about what will happen to all their documents created in Windows-based apps.

Well, that's what Parallels, which has pushily shoehorned a splashy mention of Microsoft's OS into the release, would have you believe.

Parallels Desktop for Mac 4.0, a virtualisation platform built for Intel-based Macs, comes with 50 new features and improvements, including the ability to run Apple’s Leopard Server in a virtual machine (VM), said the firm.

It also claims a 50 per cent speed hike over the previous version of the platform. Graphics support has been added for DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.0.

Meanwhile, the company's so-called Adaptive Hypervisor allows Parallels to load balance between the Mac operating system and a VM. The company is making a big deal out of performance improvements with this release. As part of that overhaul, Parallels Desktop for Mac 4.0 can connect up to eight CPUs and 8GB RAM to each VM.

In June Parallels opportunistically released what it claimed was the world's first server virtualisation solution for Intel-powered Apple systems.

The company, formerly called SWsoft, took advantage of last year’s change in the end-user licensing agreement by Apple allowing its OS X server software to run legally in a virtualised environment. That saw it somewhat stealing a march on rival, VMware.

Today’s release will probably make VMware’s teeth chatter a bit as the platform competes directly with the firm’s Fusion 2.0 that currently supports OS X virtualisation on the desktop.

Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac is available now at $80 (£50) a pop, while existing users can upgrade their current software for $40 (£32). Oh, and if you were foolish enough to buy version 3.0 after 1 September, Parallels is offering a free upgrade to version 4.0. ®

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