Case study in cluelessness: Parallels

On July 26, 2012, in Consumer Advocacy, Doing It Wrong, by Rob Levandowski

Parallels makes a popular program, Parallels Desktop, that lets Mac users run other operating systems in “virtual machines” on their Mac. One can run various flavors of Windows, as well as UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems such as FreeBSD, Linux, and Solaris. It’s a useful program.

It’s also a program from a company that seems highly clueless.

Okay, I’m not happy that every time a new major version of Parallels comes out, it costs at least $40 to upgrade it… and a new version seems to be required for every new version of Windows and every new major version of OS X. But okay, these things cost money to make, and virtualization software is more complex than most. It’s still annoying when an OS upgrade breaks Parallels until you pony up for a new version.

But now they’ve gone too far. Parallels Desktop 7, which is required to run under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, comes with advertisements. When you start the program, you get an ad for other Parallels products, or products from third parties that Parallels has deals with. Many of these products are Windows “bloatware”—software that takes up space, slows things down, and doesn’t provide much (if any) value to the user. You get these ads even though you’ve paid full retail for the software.

And you can’t turn them off.

Oh, there’s a “Don’t show me this again” button. But the thing is, Parallels has taken a unique interpretation of this phrase. Most people, seeing a dialog box when they start a program with some useless blather in it and a “Don’t show me this again” option, would assume that checking the box would prevent you from ever seeing that dialog on program startup again. Parallels’ interpretation, however, is “Don’t show me this particular advertisement again.”

So you check the box, expecting to be rid of it… and a few days or weeks later, it comes back, with a new dubious offer.

Ad infinitum.

If you ask Parallels on their public forums, they’ll tell you that you cannot disable the advertising entirely… and that they can’t remove it because it could affect Parallels’ performance.

Well, the second part is unmitigated bull excrement, certainly. They wrote the ads in; they can write the ads out. The only “performance” that will be hurt by removing the ads is the performance of Parallels’ balance sheet.

Besides, you can disable ads in Parallels Desktop, although you have to use commands in the UNIX command shell to do so. But don’t try to share this information with other Parallels users on their forum; your message will be swiftly deleted by Parallels staff, who continue to publicly state that it’s impossible. (However, if you complain loud enough, they may tell you the trick in private, out of public view.)

That’s just plain sleazy. It’s demeaning to the intelligence of their customers on many levels, and it’s a clear sign that the company has no respect for its customers.

It also raises the question: Parallels, of necessity, insinuates itself deep into the guts of your operating system. If they’re sleazy enough to do this, what else are they sleazy enough to do?

But that’s not the end of the clueless. Have a look at Parallels’ Facebook page. On the plus side, someone from the company is actually watching the page and responding to many posts there. However, the vast majority of those responses is some variation on “Thanks, please visit our website to open a support ticket for your [question|concern|criticism|widespread obvious PR disaster on our part].”

Guys, the key word in “social media” is social. Sending people to your support website to get a response to a question asked in public is anti-social.

The thing is, as much as you wish you could control the narrative on Facebook and avoid public conversations that air your dirty laundry… well… it’s just not possible. Better to avoid having dirty laundry, or at least be seen attacking it promptly and energetically with laundry soap in public.

What Parallels is doing is a naked attempt to control the narrative, one that’s obviously failing… and doing so in a public, insulting-your-customers sort of way. Someone needs to tell them about the Streisand Effect.


One Response to Case study in cluelessness: Parallels

  1. Supacon says:

    Great post, and spot on. I hope people high up at Parallels have seen this.
    I just installed Parallels 10 and guess what fun feature they have added now? You get a link that installs a trial version of Kaspersky right on the Control Center where you manage all your virtual machines.

    If there’s some way to remove it, I can’t find it and nobody is telling me.

    Stay classy, Parallels.

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