Pigs, pokes and Parallels

There’s an old saying – Never buy a pig in a poke – which roughly means “don’t pay for something unless you’ve seen it”. It was one that came to mind as I forked out for the Parallels pre-release upgrade a week or so ago.

Parallels is a virtual machine environment for the Mac, allowing you to run Windows applications even when OS X is running as your primary Operating System. Parallels 3 has just been released, but upto a week or so ago you could pay for an upgrade (before getting the actual software) with a discount. This is a classic case of pig/poke alarm, but I thought Parallels had built such good marketting momentum over the last year or so that they would do anything to hurt that.

I paid for Parallels less than a year ago, and so I was already a bit miffed about forking out my hard-earned bucks for an upgrade so soon. However, it had one feature I was particularly interested in, that of 3D video support. I don’t play many games, but it would be nice to play Half Life 2 occasionally wihout having to boot into Windows using Boot Camp.

I was a little surprised to hear that Parallels were willing to sell this functionality without a big test phase, but they mentioned both ‘Half Life 2’ and the phrase ‘at near native speeds’ explicitally in their advertising, so I decided to purchase sight-unseen.

Of course, it was too good to be true. HL2 doesn’t run anything close to native speed, and is pretty much unplayable, even on my beefy pimped-out iMac. The software is definitely not production-ready, and definitely not worth the cash of the upgrade. Sure enough, there was a pile of stones, and not a pig, in my bag.

Parallels had better fix this up pretty soon or all of their good marketting is going to drain away in the direction of VMWare. May the Mac virtualisation games commence!

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