Updated: I was impressed with OnLive Desktop when I first tried it, as it provided simple access to Windows 7 on the iPad. Specifically, the free app and service allows iPad owners to tap into Windows 7 running on OnLive's servers to use full Microsoft Office apps on the go. The company has just launched a Pro version of the OnLive Desktop service that adds full Internet Explorer web browsing to the mix.
Update: The version launched is OnLive Desktop Plus, not Pro as indicated in the headline. The Pro version is coming and described later in the article.
The new service is not cheap at $4.99 per month, but it brings the "full Internet" to the iPad in addition to Office access. The familiar Windows 7 desktop is there, as are Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Internet Explorer is now thrown into the mix to provide a full desktop browsing experience to those who need it for specific tasks.
I have been testing the new OnLive Desktop service for a couple of weeks, and what makes the Internet Explorer access so compelling is the sheer speed of it. Only the display is traveling between OnLive's servers and the iPad, the web browsing in IE is happening strictly on the company's servers with a gigabit web connection. Even complex web pages load really fast, popping immediately up on the iPad screen.
Access to Internet Explorer means you can browse any site on the iPad through OnLive Desktop without compromise. Streaming video in IE is very fast, and even complex Flash sites display properly. Take a look above at the CBS site with Flash in IE on the iPad. The good video streaming is possible due to the fast OnLive backend speed, as evidenced below in the speed test of the surfing session.
The free service is still available with OnLive Desktop (including the same 2GB of cloud storage as the Pro version), but those users will give priority access up to the paying Pro customers. Those ponying up the $5 monthly should be aware that OnLive has designed this service for specific tasks requiring only occasional use. Those camping out on the service for extended periods may have access curtailed at the company's discretion to make room for all paying customers.
OnLive plans to add a third tier of service in the future that for $9.99 per month (OnLive Desktop Pro) bumps the cloud storage up to 50 GB and adds the ability to install your own Windows apps in the server in the cloud. OnLive will limit which apps can be installed.