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Summary:

Sometimes Windows is just what the doctor ordered, and with OnLive’s new Desktop app for iPad, I suspect it’ll be the prescription I’m looking for much more often. Here’s a look at what the fresh new Windows virtualization app for iPad offers.

A taste of Surface on your iPad? Pretty fun.

I like my Macs, but I also won’t turn my nose up at Windows. Sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered, and with the new OnLive Desktop app for iPad, I suspect it’ll be the prescription I’m looking for much more often. OnLive Desktop brings Windows 7 to your iPad, streamed remotely from powerful servers. Here’s a detailed look at what the fresh new Windows virtualization app for iPad has to offer.

The price tag is the best part

Somehow, OnLive Desktop is free. It doesn’t cost a dime to download the app from the App Store, and there’s no subscription service to sign up for. The app also doesn’t require you to own a copy of Windows, as do Mac virtualization apps like Parallels and VMware. Windows 7 is already set up and running on OnLive’s remote servers. All you have to do is sign up for a free OnLive account (or use an existing one if you already signed up for OnLive’s gaming service) and connect.

Better than remote desktop apps, local virtualization software

Despite OnLive Desktop is working over an Internet connection talking to servers miles away (likely hundreds of miles in my case), it performs better than any remote desktop apps I’ve used on my own local Wi-Fi network. There’s very little lag; apps open and close speedily; and documents, spreadsheets and presentations are already setup by default to save to a synced folder, which auto-syncs at regular, frequent intervals.

In terms of setup time and ease of use, OnLive Desktop beats out both remote desktop apps and virtualization software running locally on Macs, in my opinion. This is especially true if your intended use is light editing of documents you need to access right away when away from home, since you can download from and upload to a web interface at files.onlive.com for your specific synced OnLive Documents folder.
 

Limited in scope, but should hit the right notes for most

OnLive Desktop has some limitations your own local installations of Windows won’t, however. Any changes you make to app or system settings won’t be there the next time you log in, for instance; OnLive does this to ensure speedy connections and easy jump-in, jump-out functionality for all users.

You also can’t install new programs or access anything beyond what OnLive provides, so this definitely isn’t a solution for Windows-based gaming. Still, those pre-installed apps include Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2010, as well as Windows Media Player and some basic utilities. You can’t access Internet Explorer, which would be a nice touch for people working remotely who have to access IE-only enterprise dashboards, for instance.

Finally, there’s the issue of not being able to use the iPad’s own software keyboard. Instead, you’ll get the Windows 7 on-screen keyboard. It pales in comparison to the Apple version, but it’s usable nonetheless. Also, know that if you exit the app mid-edit, you won’t be able to save your document when you jump back in, even if it resumes with the document open.

Despite those limitations, OnLive probably provides what the vast majority of its target audience requires: a quick and easy way to edit Office docs on the go. The extremely high-quality Windows Media Player streaming playback and other perks like the ability to use the touch-optimized Microsoft Surface Collage app, are just are icing on the cake.

Microsoft’s Office iPad apps are here

With Bluetooth keyboard support and the ability to connect over 3G (OnLive disconnects you after 10 minutes when connected this way, but that’s plenty of time to accomplish minor edits on the fly), I see little reason to go elsewhere for Office-compatible document editing. Plus, if this app eventually gets an upgrade to the tablet-optimized Windows 8, it should be even more touch-friendly.

Rumors occasionally crop up that Microsoft is working on dedicated Office apps for the iPad. With OnLive Desktop, I find myself happy to wait for Microsoft to take as long as it wants to get its act together.

  1. Wow, you actually got it to connect? I have not been able to get to the server all day. The iPad app, also, does not let you sign up- you have to do that from a desktop machine.

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  2. Leigh Ann Weber Friday, January 13, 2012

    I signed up on my laptop about 7 AM this morning. 8 hours later, my account has still not been “activated” . . . they must be overwhelmed with new users?

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    1. what the website to set up account?? I have the software on the Ipad But cant finf the website to sign up.. HELP!!!

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    2. I’m having the same problem. If their servers can’t handle signups it doesn’t bode well for managing full-on demand for the Windows service.

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  3. You know, I have used citrix, and VNC on my ipad, and it doesnt tke musch more than about 10 to 15 minutes before I’m join, I could really use a keyboard and mouse about now!
    I tolerate it in emergencies, and hope that most of what I have ot do can be done on the intranet through a VPN, but some of our apps liek our time keeping system have to be PC based client – strangely enough its a text based X front end to our time entry and billing back end, because its navigation is stone ax simple, this works quite well in citrix on my iPad.

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  4. Created an account and still can’t log in. Useless so far.

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  5. Took a day to get mine to connect. Once that happens, the product looks very interesting. Hope capacity gets increased to improve reliability.

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  6. S Ray Constantine Sunday, January 15, 2012

    I must have been lucky. While i did run into a problem initially, it lasted less than a minute, and I was in. It runs very smoothly. Still, I prefer CloudOn’s offering, because files are stored in Dropbox, making them more readily available for me. Nonetheless, the future looks interesting.

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  7. Another option for accessing Windows applications from iPads is Ericom AccessNow, a pure HTML5 RDP client that enables iPad users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server (RDS Session Host), physical desktops or VDI virtual desktops – and run their applications and desktops in a browser.

    Ericom‘s AccessNow does not require Java, Flash, Silverlight, ActiveX, or any other underlying technology to be installed on end-user devices – an HTML5 browser is all that is required.

    You can choose to run a full Windows desktop or just a specific Windows app, and that desktop or Windows app will appear within a browser tab.

    For more info, and to download a demo, visit:
    http://www.ericom.com/html5_rdp_client.asp?URL_ID=708

    Note: I work for Ericom

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  8. Disgruntledipadowner Friday, January 27, 2012

    Whoop-de-shit where’s the Onlive player app for ios… Wankers

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