I'll tell you this right off the bat: I prefer Parallels Desktop over VMware Fusion. However, I have both of them installed, because there are things that I have to do in VMware - well, perhaps not "have to", but it's too much trouble in Parallels.
Pre-made virtual machines are a good example of that. I sell and support Kerio products, almost all of which are available as VMware images. Only one Kerio Product offers a Parallels image.
That doesn't mean I can't run Kerio in Parallels. Most Kerio products are also available in Debian Linux versions, so I can install Ubuntu in Parallels and then install the Kerio. However, if I need to actually test the pre-made image version, I'll probably need VMware.
Parallels supposedly offers an extra cost "Transporter" to convert VMware machines. I have tried that in the past and not had great luck.
Why I prefer Parallels
One reason could be that Parallels simply starts up faster. If I click on the VMware icon in my dock and then click on Parallels, Parallels actually starts first. It's barely noticeable, probably only a fraction of a second, but I don't think I'm wrong. Some benchmarks at seem to agree. Still, that's not the reason.
How about attention to detail? Linux (and SCO) users know that CTRL-ALT-F1 is a necessary key combination. You CAN send that from VMware, but you need to hold down the Fn key while pressing the others. If you can do that comfortably with just two hands, you must be someone with extraordinarily long fingers.
You could use that key combo in Parallels too, but why bother: Parallels lets you send it from a menu.
Vmware does not:
This is where Parallels really shines. VMware suggests connecting to your Mac with remote access software like Teamviewer, but the Parallels Mobile App lets you connect to your Mac OR a specific virtual machine. That's much more powerful and convenient when the VM is all you want..
Dictation? Retina? Who cares? (maybe you)
This is NOT something I'd ever use, but Parallels apparently lets Mountain Lion dictation support pass on in.
Various other reviewers make a big deal about how well Parallels handles a Retina display. I don't have that, so don't care and probably wouldn't care if I did. I'm not a gamer and am not into graphics. I like text, dammit!
But that's me. You might care about both those things. If so, Parallels wins.
But.. if you'll be using pre-packaged VM's, VMware is probably the better choice. I wish that the Open Virtualization Format would catch on more. Parallels doesn't support that yet and not everybody provides those images (Kerio does). Even if you do find an OVF and are using a product that claims to support that (like VirtualBox), it may not actually work, so again VMware might be the only really choice.
As noted, I have both Parallels 8 and VMware 5 (and Virtual Box too, though I never use it). If you can afford both, that's the best way to go. With only one, you will experience annoyances and will have to make trade-offs.
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© 2012-10-17 Anthony Lawrence