Parallels 11 brings Microsoft's Cortana to Macs before Siri

The latest version of Parallels, the popular Windows virtualization tool for Mac OS X, almost feels like it's trolling Apple. One of Parallels 11's key features, alongside full Windows 10 support, is its ability to put Microsoft's Cortana right on your OS X desktop. That's right -- you could have a Windows-powered virtual assistant on your Mac long before Siri reaches the desktop. Parallels has already made it possible to run Windows apps directly on your Mac desktop for years with its "Coherence mode," but this latest update marks the first time it's brought over a Windows feature on its own.

In a brief demonstration, Parallel's Cortana feature (which requires a Windows 10 virtual installation, naturally) worked just like it did on Windows 10 proper, with decent voice recognition and no noticeable delays. It can even take advantage of your Mac's location data, making it practically indistinguishable from a native OS X app.

Parallels 11 also packs in the usual performance improvements: It can launch and shut down Windows around 50 percent faster than the last version, and a new "travel mode" can save up to 25 percent of your battery life. But really, the main reason you'd want to upgrade is to put Cortana on your OS X desktop and freak out all your friends. Parallels 11 is available today for $80, though users of the past two versions can upgrade for $50. And if you need more out of your Windows virtual machine, there's also Parallels 11 for Mac Pro Edition, which will take advantage of that machine's beefy hardware. It'll cost you $100 a year, or $50 a year if you're upgrading from Parallels 9 or 10.