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Parallels 6 to run 40% faster, launch Windows 2x faster than Fusion

Parallels is expected to announce as early as Thursday the sixth major upgrade to its Windows virtualization software for Mac OS X, delivering a significant performance boost over its predecessor, as well as 80 other new features.

The new Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac has been shown on average to run 40 percent faster than last year's edition, according to people familiar with the matter. Those same people said that the upgrade — expected to retail for the same $79.99 price as its predecessor — will also feature Windows boot times that are roughly two times faster than version 3.1 of its primary competitor: VMWare Fusion.

VMware and Parallels have gone head to head in the virtualization market since 2008, when the Fusion product was first introduced. Parallels has existed since 2006, and both products retail for an identical prices. In a recent study, Parallels 5 was already found to be 30 percent faster on average than VMware Fusion 3.

Parallels 6 is also expected to showcase tighter integration with its users' natural environment, adopting support for the Mac OS X's keyboard shortcuts, Spotlight search engine, and Expose windows management features. Similarly, the upgrade will offer the option to automatically apply a Mac's parental controls to their corresponding Windows applications, according to those familiar with the product.

Another major focus for Parallels is said to be gaming. Version 6.0 will reportedly deliver up to two-fold performance improvements while adding support for Dolby 5.1 surround sound and better handling of 3G environments.

Parallels 6 will sport compatibility with an enhanced Parallels Mobile application that will offer users the option of remotely accessing their virtual machines on an iPad, as well as an iPhone or iPod touch.

Parallels Transporter, previously a standalone application that allowed users to migrate a virtual PC image to the Mac, will come built into the new release as well.

Earlier this week, Parallels Desktop 6 was spotted on the shelves of a Fry's Electronics store in California. The product has not yet been formally announced.