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Parallels is launching the next version of its Parallels Desktop for Mac virtualization software today, including new features to help run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system on a Mac.

Windows apps in the Mac Launchpad

Users of the new Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac will be able to take advantage of Apple’s Retina display when running Windows, and press a button in Apple’s Safari browser on Mac when they need to open a site in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Overall, the new version integrates the two operating systems more tightly. For example, Windows 8 applications will appear in the Apple Launchpad, and alerts from Windows apps will show up in the Notification Center in Mac OS X Mountain Lion.

In addition, the new Parallels Desktop helps the cursor stick to the edge of an open Windows 8 desktop on the Mac to trigger the commands that would normally launch when Windows 8 users move their cursor to the edge of the screen on a standard Windows PC.

Other features include a Presentation Wizard that hides the Mac Dock when showing slides in full-screen view. New tricks include the ability to drag a file from the desktop to the icon for Outlook or another email app in the Mac Dock to quickly attach the file to an email message.

The Presentation Wizard in the new Parallels Desktop 8.

The primary edition of Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is $80, the same price as Parallels Desktop 7. Upgrades from previous versions sell for $50. Users also need to purchase a licensed copy of Windows to run with the Parallels software.  The older version of Parallels Desktop can also run Windows 8, but it doesn’t come with the new features designed to better bridge the two operating systems.

Parallels says it has sold more than 3 million units of Parallels Desktop for Mac since the product was introduced. VMware Fusion is the product’s primary competitor.

The company, with more than 900 employees worldwide, is based in Renton, Wash., south of Seattle. Its CEO, Birger Steen, is a former Microsoft executive.

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