If you own an Android tablet or an iPad and have been waiting for Microsoft to bring its Office suite to this mobile space, you may have to wait a while longer. However, a cloud-based solution exists in the form of OnLive Desktop.
The OnLive Desktop app allows you to use Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, or Word right on your device as if it was a native Windows 7 environment. It does this by connecting to a virtual Windows 7 server hosting the suite and desktop applications on data centers. You connect to the server via a Wi-Fi connection and there are various service options available. The Microsoft apps are fully-featured versions of the desktop equivalents without having any features stripped for tablets.
The actual app is free and comes with 2GB of free OnLive cloud storage. There are other smaller Windows apps also included in the free package. Many of these apps are the same ones you may be familiar with in daily use.
According to USAToday, “You get 2 gigabytes to store your work in the cloud and can access the files from a PC or Mac. This free OnLive offering also comes with Windows Media Player and other Microsoft accessories such as Paint, Notepad and Calculator. The Windows Touch Pack is here, too, with programs such as Microsoft Surface Collage.”
The way the company gets you though is in service plans beyond this entry offer. You can sign up for various service plans for a fee to introduce new features and added storage. For example, there is a service plan offered called DesktopPro that allows you to store up to 50GB of data. It costs $9.99 per month.
Some service plans also offer more features related to Windows 7 desktop productivity. One of these service plans is called the OnLive Desktop Plus plan and its advantage lies in the fact it allows you to use a remote Internet Explorer browser on your device. You may ask yourself, why would I want this over-popular and bug-ridden browser to begin with? The answer for you iPad owners is simple: Flash compatibility.
What is interesting is that OnLive seems to be committed to making the service work as if it was made for tablets in mind from the beginning. The USAToday report mentioned the app being updated recently to include Adobe Reader for instance. Also, various gestures have been added by OnLive that were tailor-made for tablet touchscreens.
It is nice to see a company focus its efforts on tablets exclusively rather than shoehorning smartphone compatibility at a cost to end users. There is just so much potential in tablets being able to eventually match laptops in features. End users are realizing they want to do more than content consumption on them. Which includes even heavy-duty productivity.
OnLive Company Background
OnLive Desktop comes from a Silicon Valley cloud gaming company called OnLive. I actually walked by their main office located right in the downtown area of Palo Alto behind University Ave. The company’s gaming app was approved to Apple a while back with no word on whether it will ever be approved – although it is available on Android tablets and handsets. However, surprisingly OnLive Desktop got approved in January and is available on the App Store as we speak.
The gaming app that originally launched OnLive into the spotlight in certain circles, allows you to play fully-fledged console games through the cloud. The app is currently available on Google Play for tablets and smartphones, and at one point was shown running on an iPad (you can check out the video here). There is even compatibility with an external controller; it was actually launched late last year for Android devices.
Doubts remain if the iPad app will eventually be approved, but with Apple allowing OnLive Desktop to function, we can only hope. There is however, an OnLive Viewer available for iPad that lets you watch and view OnLive gaming sessions.
OnLive is a company that has been focusing on capturing niche markets with a very sophisticated cloud network. First they make a splash among gamers, now productivity users, who knows what else the company has in store for us.
Microsoft’s Response to OnLive Desktop
Until recently, Microsoft has been sitting idly and watching OnLive Desktop from afar. However, the amount of media attention the app has been generating certainly made the Windows giant take notice. Recently, a Microsoft representative responded to the client and said it is violating licensing terms.
Joe Matz posted a letter that is available on TechNet mentioning a Gartner report bringing the service to Microsoft’s attention and raising questions. He also said that the reason OnLive Desktop violates licensing agreements has to deal with a third party profiting off of Microsoft’s software by having it’s own customer base.
According to Matz, “The hosting hardware must be dedicated to, and for the benefit of the customer, and may not be shared by or with any other customers of that partner.”
Despite this statement, the fact remains the app is still available for download. Matz also mentioned the two companies trying to resolve the problem peacefully: “We are actively engaged with OnLive with the hope of bringing them into a properly licensed scenario, and we are committed to seeing this issue is resolved.”
It will remain interesting to see how the app gets received by Microsoft over the long term and if it will be altered somehow by OnLive. It will also be interesting to see what transpires of the recent talks between the companies and whether the two companies will work together somehow instead of going to the courts. It is clear from using the service that OnLive has put a lot of work and care into making sure it functions smoothly. Many of us who do professional work on the go would love to be able to do it in the form factor of a tablet (omitting Windows 7 tablets), and now we can.
If you own an iPad head on over to the App Store and download OnLive Desktop for free. If you own an Android tablet you can grab it also for free from Google Play. The Android version was updated earlier this month and requires Android 2.3 to function.