OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

Summary: OnLive Desktop for the iPad brings a full Windows 7 desktop, complete with Microsoft Office, for free.

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I am on record as one of those tablet users who gets the most out of any tablet I use, and that includes the iPad 2. I have detailed how I use the iPad 2 with a keyboard to do serious writing work, and now with OnLive Desktop for the iPad that includes working with Microsoft Office documents natively.

The service and app debuted at the CES 2012. The principle behind OnLive Desktop is simple: you sign up for a free account with them and download the free iPad app, after which you can access a Windows 7 virtual machine on your iPad. This environment is full Windows 7, although it is structured primarily to allow you to run three full Microsoft Office apps to work on documents.

Firing up OnLive Desktop on the iPad 2 presents a full-screen Windows 7 desktop, with access to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. These are the full Windows Office apps, running in a virtual Windows 7 environment on the company's servers. The apps and the Windows 7 environment makes good use of the touch interface on the iPad, including an onscreen keyboard.

My Bluetooth keyboard is fully supported by OnLive, so working in Office on the iPad is just like working on a Windows laptop. There are occasional network problems, but most of the time performance has been quite good.

What makes this service and iPad app so unique is that it allows you to run Windows and Microsoft Office, even if you don't own either one. The free service gives you full access to the Office apps, and up to 2 GB of free document storage. Paid service with greater storage capacity is in the works for those who need more space.

Using Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in OnLive Desktop is just like using them in Windows, because that's what you are doing. The iPad 2 is just the window into the OnLive system. This review was written using OnLive and it has worked just like a native iPad app.

When you try OnLive Desktop, the first thing you note is how touch-friendly the Office ribbon is with the big buttons. It is actually a joy to use on the iPad, between tapping the ribbon controls to make things happen and entering text with the keyboard. You must upload and download files through the web site for OnLive, as there is no mechanism for doing that within the iPad app. That works fine, and allows you to download/upload the docs to Dropbox if you have that on your iPad.

In addition to the three Office apps, OnLive gives access to Windows Media Player for streaming video, although this points out the network speed (or lack thereof) on a consistent basis. There is also access to the Microsoft Touch Pack apps which work well on the iPad. Building a photo collage using Microsoft Surface Collage is particularly delightful using touch.

OnLive Desktop may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but for those needing occasional access to Office it is a great fit. The price is right, and it is as easy to use as working with any app on the iPad screen. I have used other solutions on the iPad to access Windows systems, but this is hands-down the easiest. There is nothing to set up on the virtual machine side, with not even a Windows system required.

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Topics: Software, Collaboration, iPad, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

    You should mention that other versions are in the work for Android, PC, Mac and Monitors/TV (????).

    Don't assume everybody has (or want) an Apple product.
    lepoete73
    • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

      @lepoete73 Right now this is the only version, and this is a review of that.
      JamesKendrick
      • Hard to do serious work on a 10-inch screen

        Give me a 24-inch desktop if you want serious stuff done.
        LBiege
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @JamesKendrick Can't get the app from the App Store. A message says "Your request could not be completed" Is it just me or are other people having issues, too?
        furtadorebeca@...
    • Touch and Windows

      @lepoete73

      So much for all the smoke most applistas blow about windows apps not being useful in touch mode :-)

      I prefer my windows tablet but if someone prefers an apple tablet this sounds like an excellent compromise
      archangel9999
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @archangel9999 They make Windows tablets? Who knew?
        symbolset
    • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

      @lepoete73 Didn't really think his article assumed that everybody has or wants and apple product. He just explained an interesting app that lets him do some things on his ipad. I for one am interested in the article. If it doesn't apply to you don't read it.
      aztec506
    • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

      @JamesKendrick James, is this app available for 1st gen ipads?
      T-Wrench
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @T-Wrench It works on my 1st gen ipad. But apparently is only available for people in the US.
        Marconi_z
  • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

    As per your description, the Desktop on a Windows 8 tablet will be a real pleasure to use. If lot of users signup for OnLive desktop, MS will be earning a lot of money on licensing fees.
    owlnet
    • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

      @owlnet And who pays those licensing fees if all this is free? It's very unlikely MS would give away anything for free, unless they use this free gift just as bait to get the suckers later on. As soon as most people have accumulated enough MS Office documents in their accounts it may become a pay by month/year service.
      itadmin@...
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @itadmin@...
        Maybe not. If the app developer (OnLive) is footing the bill for access to the MS software, they may be recovering the costs through either ads, or the optional additional cloud storage.
        jaykayess
  • On-screen keyboard

    I didn't find OnLive Desktop's use of Windows 7's on-screen keyboard instead of the iPad's keyboard to be very useful. They keyboard is too small for any significant amount of typing. Using an external keyboard is clearly the most productive way to use this solution.

    I think the Citrix Receiver uses the built-in iOS keyboard so I don't know why OnLive can't do the same. Hopefully that will be a change soon as it will make it easier to use OnLive.
    fmcpherson
    • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

      @fmcpherson But it works great with an external keyboard as mentioned.
      JamesKendrick
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @JamesKendrick
        So the keyboard you're referring to is Windows' on-screen keyboard, not the iPad keyboard?
        WebSiteManager
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @WebSiteManager I prefer to use it with an external Bluetooth keyboard as it works great. There's an onscreen keyboard that works well, too.
        JamesKendrick
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @JamesKendrick sooooooooo to get the best productivity from the iPad, you simply set it up as a "screen" I guess, use an External keyboard, and connect to a remote "PC" (virtual or not) and use Windows and Office?

        Am I getting this right? :P

        Sounds kind of like the old Dumb Terminal/Mainframe model of the 70's. ;)

        It does sound like an interesting app, and having just trained a group of execs in the use of iPads I've actually become a fan of how easy it is to type on (but I'm still an Android user myself).

        But I'd still preach that tablets are GREAT for "consumption" but not that great for "creation" (unless you're just tweaking something or kicking off a document).

        My 5c worth for free ;)
        eLearner
  • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

    Onlive is fancy name for remote desktop solution.
    cbrcoder
    • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

      @cbrcoder Except it requires nothing from the user. Just sign up for the free service and use the free app. Nothing else is currently as easy.
      JamesKendrick
      • RE: OnLive Desktop: Full MS Office on iPad 2, no Windows required (review)

        @JamesKendrick My Asus Transformer came with an app that lets me use my work Windows PC remotely - without additional fees or licensing.
        symbolset