How would you like to be able to run full versions of Microsoft Office on your Apple or Android tablet? Turns out you can with OnLive Desktop. Sign up for a free account at OnLive, download the app to your device, then sign in. You’ll see what looks like a standard Windows 7 desktop with shortcuts to Word, PowerPoint and Excel plus your document folder, Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader. For $4.99 per month, the browser will be enabled for general browsing meaning you can see Flash websites. The paid plan also lets you access DropBox, attach files to web-based email apps (like Gmail) and you’ll get a “priority” connection for better/faster connectivity. Both plans provide 2GB of storage.
The way OnLive works is by using virtualization – you’re actually connecting to a remote computer running Office so all the processing is done on the server – not your device. Performance relies on the robustness of your internet connection. OnLive already has a very successful games on demand service that uses the same technology.
If you’re a free version user, upload files you’ll want on the go from your desktop to the web based interface first. You can select up to 5 files at a time. Subscribers who keep files in DropBox can skip that step if all their files are in DropBox folders.
a simple PowerPoint file from scratch – very responsive with my wireless home FIOS connection. Uploaded files rendered perfectly and were easy to edit. You can only view the desktop in landscape orientation – annoying since the way my Apple iPad keyboard connects requires portrait orientation. The iPad’s keyboard screen stays out of the way until you tap the icon to bring it up so you can only see half the screen when making edits/additions, but these are small quibbles for full Microsoft Office functionality.
One little problem with OnLive – Microsoft isn’t too happy about the service and is looking into whether it violates licensing agreements. Pricing for virtualized environments is giving Microsoft a headache in general so there must be some loophole in the EULA that OnLive is using to offer the service. So watch for a pricing change and/or no more free versions. OnLive shows no signs of going away, though, and is planning on offering enterprise versions. You have to wonder why Microsoft didn’t think of this first.