Tablets are great for consuming content, but so far have been lacking in the ability to create it. Whether it’s the limited hardware capabilities, the touchscreen interface, or just that software, vendors haven’t had enough time to adapt their offerings. So users still turn to desktops when serious work needs to be done. OnLive is looking to change that by offering full Windows applications “from the cloud”, starting by making Microsoft Office available to the iPad.
Called OnLive Desktop, the free app will be available in the iTunes App Store on Thursday, January 12th. The app acts as a remote desktop client for an “as-available” Windows 7 desktop hosted on OnLive’s PC servers. The free OnLive account comes with 2 GB of storage and provides access to Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, as well as touch based games and several utilities.
OnLive Founder and CEO Steve Perlman stated "OnLive Desktop is the first app to deliver a no-compromise, media-rich Windows desktop experience to iPad, opening up powerful new possibilities for consumers and businesses. iPad users will now be able to simply and securely view and edit cloud-hosted documents with full-featured Windows desktop applications like Microsoft Office, just as if they were using a local high-performance PC. Multi-touch gestures respond instantly and smoothly, while HD videos, animations and PC video games-never before usable on a remote desktop-play seamlessly."
After starting the app and logging in, the user is presented with a standard Windows 7 desktop, similar to using other remote desktop apps to access your home or work PC. The difference, of course, is that the PC you are accessing isn’t yours. You can open files and applications the same way you would on a desktop, but OnLive Desktop simplifies the process by adapting the touch gestures commonly used on an iPad to work with the desktop. Pinch and zoom, flick to scroll, drag, drop and Aero snap all work as one would expect on the iPad.
Within the desktop, the PC applications have full functionality, allowing one create and edit files. Though OnLive Desktop can be used with a Bluetooth keyboard, an onscreen keyboard can also be used to provide input for the applications. Within the Windows 7 desktop, users can navigate, open and edit files just as they would on the desktop in their office.
Ready for Business?
As mentioned above, the free service operates on an “as-available” basis, using left over capacity from OnLive’s substantial remote gaming infrastructure. For businesses, where as-available doesn’t cut it, and 2GB is too little storage, a subscription service called OnLive Desktop Pro will be available soon for $9.99 per month. The service will not only provide a larger selection of applications and features, and 50GB of storage space, but also priority access to OnLives server resources. For businesses with special needs, OnLive Enterprise will be available, allowing not only installation of all the custom applications a company needs, but also providing IT staff the ability to fully control access to the applications and associated data.
OnLive Desktop for iPad is just the start, OnLive says Android, smartphones, PC, Mac and even TVs and monitors will soon be supported, allowing access “anywhere, on any device, at any resolution”. The challenges OnLive faces include making sure its service can scale gracefully when demand increases, and whether users will be comfortable working with a desktop interface using touch based inputs. Perhaps the timing is just right to get the service running smoothly in time for Windows 8, which will offer a more touch friendly interface that could pair well with OnLive’s service.
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Joseph Fieber has 25 years experience as an IT pro, with a background in computer consulting and software training. Follow him on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter, or contact him through his website, JosephFieber.com.