There's no doubt that the iPad is a game-changing piece of hardware, but the fact remains that it's incomplete without the ability to run Windows apps -- Microsoft Office in particular. Last week, a service that delivers Office with Dropbox integration to the iPad. Turns out that CloudOn isn't the only player in this space: There's also OnLive Desktop.
Onlive Desktop brings not just Microsoft Office to the iPad, but the entire Windows 7 desktop as well. You get the familiar Start menu with Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, along with old standbys like Paint, Calculator, Notepad and more. The desktop responds to standard Windows 7 touch gestures, as well. Note that it isn't your own, customizable desktop; you can't install new apps in Windows, and any documents you leave there will be gone the next time you log in.But it really is the Windows 7 desktop, and interacting with it via touch on an iPad is a real treat.
Compared to CloudOn, which relies on Dropbox for file storage, OnLive's approach is both better and worse.
Better because your files are found in the usual Documents folder, so using OnLive on the iPad is no different from using Office on your PC. Worse because you need to upload files for your iPad via OnLive's Web page. Once you upload some files, though, they're available from the Documents folder on OnLive's desktop on your iPad. You can also create new documents in any Office app and save them to the Documents folder as well.
What's missing from this equation is a better synchronization model; CloudOn got it right with Dropbox, and OnLive needs an easy way to sync files with your PC as well.
OnLive Desktop is free to use and comes with 2GB of storage for your Documents folder. There are also premium plans coming as well; OnLive will offer a Pro plan for $10/month, for instance, with 50GB of storage and the ability to add additional apps.
It's not perfect, but OnLive shows a lot of promise. Give it a spin -- for free -- and get access to all the functionality of Office on your iPad.
Dave Johnson was employed by Microsoft Corporation at the time this article was written.